Under the Influence


United States
34° 13' 31.0872" N, 77° 52' 15.7044" W

It started the moment he stopped
rubbing their backs, and giving horsey rides
on the living room carpet.
It started the moment he began
to frequent the bar twenty minutes away
instead of coming home for supper.
They saw him less and less;
his youngest angel didn’t even know
what it was like to have a real father
because the moment after her birth
he started to fade.
Beer in the fridge became a regular sight,
and his daughters learned
what a DUI was from their father’s
own experience. They didn’t talk about it.
The change was so gradual it took them years
to realize that they had lost their father.
His behavior started to seem normal—
a couple of bud lights every day,
stumbling through the door late at night,
the pungent scent of alcohol wafting
from his clothes, his hair, his breath.
Then they saw their mother cry.
Then they saw how lonely their mother was.
The sisters had each other, they had
the same experience; they only knew
what it was to lose a father—so different
from losing a husband. So they thought
maybe they could change his interests,
give him gifts to make him want
to be at home more than anywhere else.
Nothing worked. It was like telling a fish
to stop swimming, and he was swimming
in a sea full of delusions. In his mind
nothing was wrong. He had everything
under control until one drunken night,
when his girls were all grown up
and making their own bad decisions,
he realized he was empty, and had nothing
left but the beer can in his hand.


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