Brittney likes milk. She drinks a glass or two a day, when she can. Alyssa doesn't like milk. Whenever she slept over when we were kids, we'd demand pancakes (or make them ourselves, when our moms deemed us worthy of touching the stove), and I'd automatically grab the milk from the fridge. Alyssa would ask for water, in her quiet, unobtrusive way.
I don't really remember anyone else's milk status, but I do remember all of us sitting around my old dining room table after a birthday sleepover, eating pancakes and sausage and drinking our drinks of choice. I seem to remember a lot of my friends requesting tap water back in those days.
I know I'm home when I'm hunched over my laptop on my unmade bed, completely consumed by whatever unimportant task is keeping me from journaling or plotting or writing. My cat is often curled up on the left side of the laptop, pressed against the vent. Even in high summer, she loves the warmth, twitching in her dreams and swatting away my attempts to annoy her. That's being home.
Especially at twilight, when the brilliance of a blinding orange sunset manages to stream into my bedroom through the plastic blinds and directly into my eyes. The sky is streaked with orange, with pink, with deep purples of clouds in shadow. Even on a rainy day, I can see that sunset - the one that means it's been a glorious day. If I could be just an inch taller or an inch shorter, I bet I'd still have great eyesight. But there's still something magical about how well the sun knows me and my habits.
Nothing says "Friday night in" at my house like loud music, alcohol, and that choking feel of cigarette smoke in the back of your throat. You never smell cigarette smoke; you feel it. You can just feel is, grabbing your larynx and holding on for dear life, tickling your throat and refusing to let you breath. You hold your breath, for fear of that sensation of asphyxiation. You don't ever want to breath in.
Smoking in the house means Mom's probably already buzzed. That's what I learned young, at a time when my dad would try to get her to turn down Springsteen and let her daughter sleep. That's what I tried to fight as I got older, by stomping indignantly out of my bedroom at whatever hour and demanding the music go off so I could sleep. That's what I've resigned myself to, when I can't get in my car and run away from memories of bad arguments and empty wine bottles next to the garbage can on Saturday mornings.
Either she'll pass out soon enough, or decide that it's time to go out to a bar and get drunker. Her usual attire is bleary eyes, an enormous zip-up sweatshirt, and her useless excuses for drinking herself into oblivion. She doesn't need reasons; I've never asked what she feels the need to slowly kill herself (and, probably, me). I've never asked Dad why he doesn't try harder to stop it, why he gives in and drinks right with her. Why they drink and argue instead of staying sober and splitting up. I've been wondering about all that since I was seven years old, since things got bad, then better, then bad, then better. The continuing roller coaster ride. Nineteen years old, and you'd think I'd be used to it by now.
I just know it makes me angry. And, oddly, I often end up feeling worthless. Is that all I have to look forward to? Unhappy, lying to myself, never living the life I want to live? Is she my future?
I fight hard not to allow myself to be anything like her. It isn't all bad, but there's too much of her DNA seeping into my soul with every passing day. She's my mom. I love her. It isn't every Friday night that's like this, but enough of them for me to worry. Growing up in a toxic environment makes you toxic.
Or a writer.