ALCOHOL YOU ARE MY ENEMY
It was a beautiful, summer morning in 1956. The hour was eleven o’clock in the morning, and our family was anticipating a day of shopping and visiting Grandma in Albuquerque. Our station wagon headed out of Socorro. Near the outskirts of town was a small tavern with one pickup parked in front.
“There’s Tom’s pickup. I wonder if he’s still planning on taking that job in Australia.” Deryl asked.
“Pull in and we’ll talk to him,” Mom suggested.
I groaned outwardly. “Ah...come on...you’ll be in there forever.”
“We’ll only be a few minutes,” Mom said as Deryl stopped the car in front of the tavern.
I threw dagger stares as they entered the small block building. One blackened window stared back mockingly with bold red letters: Bar.
I slid down in the seat angrily and folded my arms. I hated bars! I hated alcohol! They were both exercising more and more influence over our lives!
The sun was hot as it shown through the open windows of the station wagon, and a small breeze swept the leaves of a tree near the tavern. One lone fly buzzed and landed on my sweaty legs, which were beginning to stick to the warm upholstery.
Our car and Tom’s pickup were the only two vehicles parked in front of the establishment.
After we had waited nearly an hour, Bronco became fidgety and ventured into the bar. I sat brooding. We’d be lucky if we ever made it to Albuquerque. Why did they have to stop? I knew they were in there drinking! Alcohol was becoming an increasing problem. Before, Deryl and Mom only drank when they went out, but recently, they had begun drinking at home. I could still remember the first evening I noticed Mom mixing their drinks. I had a nervous, sickening feeling and instantly disliked the new routine! My concern was confirmed by a couple of incidents. One of them happened late at night. Mom locked Deryl out of the house, and he stood outside their bedroom window, swearing, while Mom was on the inside yelling out. I lay in bed, covering my head with my pillow, muffling the sound, and the embarrassment I felt at the thought of neighbors being disturbed.
After alcohol invaded out home, martinis became a usual evening habit. The drinks were used to unwind from the day and to have a time of fellowship together. Supper would be cooking, Deryl had just showered from work, and Mom would fix the martinis. The meal would be delayed as voices and laughter rose in volume from the kitchen. Bronco and I waited in front of the television in the living room. Some nights, if an argument erupted (which was happening frequently) supper would be ruined, and all that filled one’s stomach was nervousness, anger, resentment and fear!
An old blue Oldsmobile pulled up beside our station wagon and a man entered the tavern. On the highway, vehicles sped by for their destinations.
I cracked my car door, allowing the warm breeze to blow through. Bronco ran out of the bar and stood outside the car. He picked up a handful of rocks and began tossing them toward the edge of the driveway.
“What are Deryl and Mom doing in there?” I asked angrily.
“Oh, just drinking and talking with that Tom, guy,” Bronco answered nonchalantly.
Time dragged by. The afternoon sun was penetrating more heat, and the lone fly had a companion.
I thought of walking home. It was only a couple of miles, but I knew that if I did Mom would be angry.
I stepped out of the car and stretched my legs. My shorts and blouse were wet from perspiration. I felt as if I’d ridden to Albuquerque and back twenty times, and I hadn’t been there yet! I slammed the car door and marched toward the tavern. I hated the place with every step I took!
The interior was semi-dark, and it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust. “Why are these places always so dark?” I asked myself. The bartender stood behind the bar, serving another beer to the man from the Oldsmobile. Deryl, Mom and their friend were sitting around a table in the center of the room. Before them, on the table, were a number of empty glasses. Their voices were loud and boisterous.
“I’m tellin ya...ther’s money down under...yesireee.... Australia...that’s the land of opportunity.” Tom bellowed.
“How much money you planning on making?” Deryl asked, with a thick tongue.
“Why, thousands more than I’m making around here,” his friend bragged loudly.
I walked up behind Mom and touched her arm. She was engrossed in the conversation and turned toward me, annoyed. When I saw her displeasure, my own aggression melted. Mom had never hurt me physically, but when she drank, I was leery of this strange person who emerged. She was so different from the mother I knew when she was sober.
“Mom, when are we going?” I asked, with all the courage I could muster.
“Pretty soon." Go on...we’re talking business!” she said impatiently and turned back to the conversation and her companions.
“Yea, our glasses are empty...let’s have another drink!” Tom roared as he brought his hand down on the table, causing the glasses to shake. “Hey, Shorty, three more over here!” he yelled over his shoulder to the bartender.
I turned to walk away and my eyes met the clock on the wall. It was 2:45! We had been there almost four hours! Anger and frustration were building up inside me as I stepped back into the sunlight.
Bronco had tired of throwing rocks and was inside the station wagon leaning against the door. He looked like he could fall asleep. I slid into the back seat across from him.
The fly had two more pesky friends. The warm breeze had stifled and the interior of the car was hot! And, I was steaming!
“They’re just lucky I’m only thirteen or I’d be gone!” I growled to Bronco, releasing some of my pent up emotion. One of the flies lit on my leg. I swatted at him and he flew out the window, deserting his other winged friends. I slid down in the seat, completely frustrated!
Another hour passed...I heard voices and rose up. Deryl, Mom and Tom were coming though the tavern doorway.
“Finally!” I said in disgust. Bronco sat up.
“See ya, buddy,” Deryl yelled at his friend, as Tom pealed his pickup onto the highway toward Socorro.
Deryl and Mom were obsessed with Australia, and their voices were in full volume as they got into the car. I knew we would never move to Australia. It was just another dream image. An idea that would never take place. Deryl and Mom were always looking for the pot of gold at the end of a distant rainbow, or greener pastures just over the next hill. Discontent and continuous upheaval was our way of life. If contentment and peace had met us face-to-face we probably wouldn’t have recognized them. They were foreign commodities in our lives.
I don’t know what triggered the argument, but Deryl and Mom were yelling at each other. The scenery outside was a blur as it flew past the station wagon window. I peeked over Deryl’s shoulder: the speedometer read, ninety-five miles an hour and was climbing.
“Deryl, slow down! Do you want to kill us all?” Mom screamed, “Slow down! My kids are in this car!”
“Woman, what’s your ******* ***** problem?” Deryl swore.
“Stop this car and get out!” Mom shouted and shoved him.
The car swerved, slowed and came to an abrupt, screeching sideways halt by the side of the road. Deryl opened the car door and Mom pushed him out. They were still yelling.
Mom slid behind the steering wheel and locked the car door. Deryl was swaying and swearing outside the door. Mom started the engine, and we pealed rubber onto the highway. Deryl was left behind in a cloud of dust. I looked back and watched him turn, with a posture of dejection, and stagger toward Socorro.
We were on our way to Albuquerque, but it was late afternoon. Mom was driving over the speed limit. Bronco and I were holding on in the back seat and Deryl was still in Socorro.
As the miles sped by, Mom sobered up and slowed the speed of the car. She was still angry with Deryl, and the atmosphere was tense.
Evening shadows were falling over Albuquerque, and a New Mexico sunset lit the western sky. We drove up Central Avenue towards Grandma’s store.
Mom and Grandma sat at the kitchen table and had a long discussion. Grandma, who hated alcohol almost as much as I did, exhorted Mom to abstain. She also blamed Deryl for the problem. I often wondered if Grandma realized that Mom was as much a culprit in drinking as Deryl.
The next morning, Deryl showed up at the store. It wasn’t long before he and mom made up. When they were sober, they were completely different people. They could be giving and loving. ( Although Mom had been changing toward me, and I felt distant from her...and wasn't feeling love from her.).
The four of us traveled back to Socorro. We were drained emotionally and relieved the upheaval was over. I, for one, hoped and prayed there would never be another occurrence. Time would pass, and then, without warning, the old serpent of drunkenness would surface again. Underneath the veneer of our lives, alcoholism was undermining the support beams, deteriorating the structure, and chipping away at the very foundation of our lives! The devilish fiend.... Alcoholism...the disease...the thief...our