Crack the Spine Issue 96 - Page 9

Pierrette Rouleau Stukes Swimming I inhaled gasoline fumes. I was ten. I have no idea how I knew that breathing vapors would get you high, your mind thick, silly, forgetting. Sneaking along the nighttime edges of 1960s starter homes lined up on stark Bermuda lawns, I would feel for the greasy, metal surfaces of push mowers in sheds, unscrew the caps and breathe. Insider’s joke: The trapeze artist grips the bar in his mouth over empty space, no net. Alcoholics let go on purpose. They drop willingly into forgetting oblivion. I don’t remember my first meeting. But I recall sitting with a pudgy, sixty-something woman in cotton jeans at a diner afterwards. Diners look the same on the outside: sticky booths, griddle cooks, single patrons eating, smoking, staring off into memories. Ellie and I hunched over stained Formica, drinking coffee and pushing stale apple pie around on our plates. We looked like a grandmother and her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter. “I missed a dance routine at a national competition. I was passed out in my hotel room in my tutu.” “That’s alcoholism.” “I stole cheap wine from the A & P behind my parents’ house.” “That’s alcoholism.” “Lost jobs. Quit high school. Kicked out of bars. Relationships sucked dry.” “That’s alcoholism.” “When I was fifteen, a friend I drank with committed suicide. She got her dad’s gun. Shot herself in the park beside her house, her mother probably sewing or baking. Oblivious.”