My parents were boozehounds. Most people probably consider that a fairly archaic term. However, my mother and stepfather’s relentless pursuit of alcohol was certainly akin to the devoted manner in which a canine holds fast to the trail of their prey.
My stepfather was a nightly drinker, consuming vast amounts of beer. The only other beverage I ever saw him consume was coffee and he drank that in copious quantities as well. He started the day out with coffee and went through pots and pots of it until it was late enough in the day to switch to beer. I don’t recall him being much of a liquor drinker. He seemed quite able to achieve his desired results through the assistance of a low grade pilsner.
My mother, on the other hand, was always reaching for some higher echelon in life. She and her friends arranged weekend “cocktail parties” at one another’s homes.
They loved to come up with fancy themes and to serve elaborate drinks and appetizers to accompany them. All of it was a wonderful cover for what was actually a rather primal drunkfest of sodden intoxication, furtive groping of spouses other than one’s own, and the occasional high volume argument or even fisticuffs.
As children if we weren’t banished from the festivities at the get-go, we often found ourselves as invisible participants. It wasn’t difficult to cop a drink here and a snack there. Many clandestine behaviors took place under our innocent, eagle eyes. And, of course, for us young ladies there was always that one creepy dad. Actually, at the time I did not know that the lecherous father was a common theme found at “cocktail parties” across the nation and perhaps the world. Then in my obliqueness, I thought the character of Mr. Clark was a unique entity that somehow I, in my special wrongness, had brought upon myself.
Usually I had a pretty good buzz on myself by the time he cornered me. Like my parents I was already quite fierce in my quest for the almighty bottle. Depending on the nature of my drunk, Mr. Clark’s glittering eyes and sweat shiny face either repulsed or scared me. Back then I wasn’t fully cognizant of the predator’s keen ability to sense out and trap his victim. So it always amazed me how he managed to find me at every gathering and get me alone. Later, learning this was a fine tuned skill was somewhat comforting. Then again it was slightly terrifying.
There were things I liked about his attention, I must confess, as distasteful as the scenario appeared to be, especially if I had a certain kind of drunk on. I loved when he told me I was beautiful and that I had movie star looks like Jessica Lange. Truthfully I had no idea who she was but I appreciated the fact that he could attach one specific beautiful face to mine rather than making a generic compliment. I also liked to hear that I was more mature than the other girls my age, something which I wasn’t sure of but which might explain in part why I felt so different.
Mr. Clark never did anything overtly inappropriate. He didn’t touch me or proposition me. It was always just sort of stalking, innuendoed conversation, and general weirdness. It was being set apart. There was also that underlying sense that he somehow knew he could do it and I would never tell anyone which became something of an emblem that I wore obtusely like my auburn hair. I didn’t tell, I haven’t, but now I will.