"Just stay away from the bottle. If you can make it one more night, then maybe you can make it another night after that," Perry thought as his fingers inched closer and closer to the open case of beer beckoning him from the misty cool fridge. He didn't want the beer to win this time, or maybe it was that he didn't want the beer at all… Maybe he needed something harder. Liquor. "No," he thought again, knowing if he resorted to that, it would somehow be worse than the beer. But it didn't seem to matter much any more, beer or liquor, vodka or wine. Alcohol was poisoning him, and not just his liver. It was the poison that was degrading his home life as he knew it. The closer he inched to that bottle, the farter he inched from his family, and something inside of him was trying to tell him that. At the same time, alcohol seemed to be the only thing keeping him sane from the constant, relentless attacks from his own wife and kids.
They didn't respect him anymore. How could they? At 50 he was already going on 80, and he wore his age poorly upon his scraggled, unshaven face. He was tired and worn, depressed and worthless. He could barely call himself a father, let alone a man at all. His wife bullies him, and his children tell him what to do; it was hardly a house he wanted to come home to after work, and so he rarely did. There was something more comforting about the bar. He felt accepted there, and unbothered by the emotionally draining demands of the home life. Nothing he ever did seemed good enough for his family, never mind the fact that he had his Ph.D in psychology. He was, to many, a solid rock amidst a storm of emotional and psychological trauma, helping those who had no one else to turn to- the lonely and depressed, not unlike himself. Though to them, he was a hero, some claimed, more of a father to them, than their own… It wasn't irony so much as it was a cruel reminder of the double-life he was living, every time he saw his reflection in the morning. The truth was he hated seeing himself because he knew that his face wore an expression of a broken man, but that his patients saw a different fašade. It pained him to give his patients the advice that he himself could never seem to follow: Be honest with yourself and with others, and you can't go wrong.
In fact, his life seemed to revolve around just the opposite. He hid many things from his family. One lie lead to the next, and before he knew it, he had built his family foundation upon a web of deceit. The truth was, he had never been fully committed to the family in the first place. His wife, though he loved her with all his heart, could never fill the endless hole in his heart that he was reserving for another. He was not IN love with her, or any "she" for that matter. The hole in his heart had been created when he, again, failed to follow his own advice, and wasn't honest with the man whom he truly loved. They had parted ways, and he never truly expressed his feelings. Instead, he carried them with him through college, through graduation, and into his marriage. And there the feelings sat in the back of his mind, consuming any ideas of love he would ever try to conceive for his wife. After all, he had married her because at the time, they seemed suited for one another. They had a lot in common. She loved him, and he respected and cared for her. It seemed like the common-sense thing to due, to marry her, and begin a family. But it was doomed to failure from the foundation on which it was built.
It didn't matter anyway. The man in his life was never coming back, and he had two children, one leaving for college, another having just dropped out and his only son still struggling to pass high school.. Deep down, he knew their problems were due to a lack of a strong leader in the family, though on the surface it seemed like his wife had that role covered. She was strict and strong-willed, successful and ambitious, the latter of which was once a shared trait between her and her husband. Now, Perry could barely seem to work up the ambition to wake up in the morning. The only reason he did, was to escape the nagging of his wife, and find refuge in the problems of his clients. There was something mentally calming about being able to lose himself in their world, to help them, to know the deepest parts of their psyche, and to ultimately be making a positive difference in their life, and to be appreciated enough to be paid. He never felt like he was a burden on their shoulders as he did when and if he came home after work.
Tonight was no exception. The second he stepped foot in the doorway, he regretted having denied the bar to assume his fatherly duties. Desmond, his son, was in a heated argument with his sister, something about him using her medications to give him a high. Either way, neither of them wanted Perry involved. In fact, the sight of him ceased their quarrels if only to unite themselves against their own father. The yelling was instantly passed to him as the hounded him about why he was late, if he was drinking, and blaming him for their own mother's stress. Perry said nothing, as he knew any word would only incriminate himself more. His silence drove their antagonism as he prepared his mental barrier against them. Really, the only reason he came home instead of going to the bar was to check his email to see if someone had responded to him about a possible lead on finding his college lover. However, he never got the chance, as apparently his wife had found the email first… He knew it by the stance she took in the hallway, framed by the dim light, his eyes glowing with ferocity. His heart sunk as he knew what was coming next…
She laid into him, like she had never done before, accusing him of his infidelity, telling him how his email only proved what she had long suspected. She called him out, and there was nothing he could do but stand there and take the full brunt of her rage, though his son didn't make it easier.
"My father's a faggot! And you expect me not to get stoned after that news??"
"Just leave him, Mom, why bother even explaining to him what he already knows!?"
"A f-cking faggot, as if we couldn't tell from the start. What KIND of bar are you always at anyway?"
"The assless chaps kind, doi, Desmond."
But his son and daughter's insults were only muffled chattering compared to his wife's final cutting words.
"I'm leaving you, Perry."
Then, it was as if all sound had left the room like the silence after a bomb just strikes. His emotional wall was shattered as it finally hit him. That truly was it.
"Pack your bags. Stay tonight, but it will be the last night under this roof." The family left him without another word, each going to their respective rooms, leaving him dumbfounded and speechless in the darkened den. He was emotionless for a while, not knowing what to think, or even what to feel. Just a blank expression upon his face, and a blank feeling in his heart.
Now he looked at the bottle again. What difference did it make? Liquor, beer, or nothing at all? What had been done was done… Just sink another drink, why not? It was the last he'd have under that roof.