Each morning, the fall I turned sixteen, and my father gave me a rattletrap car for my birthday, I took Ariel to school. She teased me gently, unmercifully, tickling me, clapping her hands over my eyes as I drove. She played with me as if I were a child; and I laughed till my eyes stung with tears.
In the afternoons, having dropped her off, I slipped into a bar downtown. Since the age of twelve, I’d stolen liquor from my father’s house. Now, if I wore a certain tweed jacket, my father’s red silk tie, a three-day growth of beard, I could buy booze almost anywhere. In the bar, giant candles dripped, reflected in a cloudy mirror, where Otis Redding serenaded anarchist skaters, aging hippies, and me. At school, I slept through classes. Sour-stomached, in a gray fog, I made anxious resolutions; but again and again, I betrayed myself, taking the next drink.
I never told Ariel I went to the bar; I never told her about the liquor I bought on weekends. I would be redeemed, I thought, by poetry and love.
“Ariel,” Epoch, Volume 69, Number 3 (Spring 2022)