Gin for Christmas
“It’s the drunk tank, ma’am, it’s not prison. She’ll be here ‘til the A.M. Just sit tight, is all you can do. I suggest you just stay put and let her sleep it off. You can come down to post bail tomorrow after the judge set it. Ain’t nothing to do right now for you. Nothing at all. So, ma’am, please don’t come down here tonight. We busy, it’s crowded, and it’s Christmas.”
Her mother , Aneta, set the phone down on the granite countertop, gleaming and new, in the stunning designer kitchen. Her impeccably manicured nails on pudgy fingers tapped the counter.
“This is not about me. This is not about me. Liliya has the problem. I can only try to help her. This is not about me,” she said aloud in monotone, stating the affirmations her therapist has trained her to do. As she spoke she clenched her fist. For a moment it appeared she would smash her fist against the granite; but then she just feigned the punch in slow-motion repeatedly.
She walked around the island slowly and kept her hand on the countertop of the kitchen island. It became a security device throughout the night. It contained all of the items she needed for surviving the news: Cordless and cell phones. Legal pad and pen. Organizer opened up to lawyer’s number. Carton of cigarettes and a Swarovski crystal bowl that doubled for an ashtray. Yellow pages for police station and various bail-bondsmen. Ice cube tray, glass, and bottle of gin. She didn’t sit down at the cushy stools. Sitting might mean giving up or giving in to the massive fight ahead; and there would be a massive fight; with whom, she may not have been sure. She stood, walked, shifted her weight, and leaned on the counter as if it was a bar, and lit cigarette after cigarette.
Those were the days. She eyed the gin like it was seducing her. She closed her eyes, cocked her head, and smiled, remembering how she used to lean in on the bar pushing up her bust, using her body to attract men—at the very least to buy her drinks. It was a nice escape.
I’m nothing like Liliya and never was, parading around like a cheap slut, drunken, strung out whore. No class. My own daughter, she can’t take care of herself or find a man to do it for her, she mumbled or thought.
“Do you resent her now, Aneta?” Evgeni said from the dark living room.
“Shit, you startled me. How long you been here? Sneak, you are a sneak. I don’t need you here now needling me. It’s bad enough as is.”
“What were you just thinking about? I saw you smile. I really hope you’re not enjoying this.”
“I told you, Geni, stay away from me right now.”
“Were you thinking about when we met? At the bar? You were standing the same way you know. You stick your ass and tits out. You fat now, though.”
Aneta took a deep breath in and flung her glass towards Evgeni with all her strength. She didn’t say a word. The overhead lights weren’t on in the living room and she didn’t know where he was sitting, or else she would have aimed straight for his head. The glass just shattered a side table and knocked off its contents. The heavy carpeting muted the sound of what Aneta hoped would be a dramatic end to the direction of the conversation.
“You think she’s doing this because of the drugs? She’s doing this because she’s you. She learned from the best.”
Aneta held her head in her hands at the kitchen island, steaming.
Evgeni was Aneta’s third husband, but they had known one another since high school here in Brooklyn. Their families are neighbors in a town outside Odessa. Two nights ago in a pre-holiday dramatic escalation of emotional illiteracy,17-year old Liliya drunkenly confessed to having a crush on Evgeni and leaned in to kiss him at the dinner table. When he stood up abruptly, Liliya ran crying from the house and hadn’t returned. Evgeni still spoke with a thick Ukrainian accent and wore it like a badge.
“This is not about me, and I know you are trying to make it about me but it is not. I can handle this, you lecherous pig.”
“Hey, I didn’t sleep with her; I didn’t do nothing with her. You can believe what you want to believe, but I didn’t do nothing to your girl. You know me so many years now. I’m not pleading nothing with you, Aneta, because you have your problems.”
Aneta believed him because he was telling the truth.
“She just not my type, you know—“ he baited.
“You bastard!” Aneta screamed and leaped into the dark living room in a fit of tears and high-pitched hysteria.
“Don’t act like you’re protecting her now, crazy bitch!” he yelled as he pulled her off of him.
Aneta collapsed on the floor and over-compensated for a little push Evgeni gave her. She was acting, but to what extent she was acting over feeling truly emotionally shocked at the past couple days’ events, even she didn’t know.
The both fell silent.
“You have to decide if you really want to care about your daughter. She’s gone down this road, Aneta, and tonight, I think you know, there’s no coming back. She fucking—she—ech, I can’t even say it. She fucking raped a Santa Claus, Aneta, for godssake, an old man at Macy’s—“
“Stop it! Stop saying that! We don’t know what happened. I don’t know what to do. I can’t even think now. What could make her so sick—“
“You hear yourself?” he said.
The phone rang and Aneta jumped up to get it, clumsily catching a shoe on the carpet in the living room and running into the kitchen, to her home base island, to fetch the call.
“Hullo, yes?—I am. Yes that’s right. – Uh huh. Ok. At 8 o’clock at the precinct or at the courthouse? – Mmm, ok. — And what are they charging her with, if that’s how it happened? – Oh. I see, ok. That sounds—uh, huh. Alright then.”
“What now?” Evgeni asked.
She walked to the cabinet and reached up for another glass and turned to reach for the ice on the counter but noticed that it had all melted and the sweat had soaked through some of the loose pages of notes and phone numbers, rendering them illegible. She stared for a moment and then grabbed a towel from a drawer and tried to sop up the water on the paper, futilely. As she was cleaning up and getting more ice from the freezer, she started speaking, but not necessarily to Evgeni. Her habit of talking aloud was one she didn’t care to change since it never bothered her, though confusing to others.
“She was drunk again and pushed some people out of the way on the line to see Santa Claus at Macy’s. She set on his lap and started kissing the man and reached into his pants. That’s all, the cop just said, that’s all, but they charge her for that. She just drinking, Liliya, why you have to do that so much, you’re a young girl—“
“Aneta, stop it. You’re judging your daughter on a different bar than yourself. You were already pregnant and married at 17. Why you think she doing crazy things now? You holding her to a different standard.”
“You won’t win any parent awards for that mentality, Evgeni—“
“That’s why I ain’t no father, if you haven’t noticed, dear. I run my business and my women fine without childrens.”
“You are a heartless sonofabitch. Why I marry you I don’t know,” Aneta said, without looking up from her pointless chores at the kitchen island.
“It’s late. Or early. I’m going to try to get some sleep, you piece of shit,” Aneta said ambivalently.
“You going down there tomorrow for her? I think you need to think a little more before she come back into this house.”
“I don’t know. I don’t have no idea what I’m going to do about her.”