We sat in silence under the one dim light. It felt like the moment in a horror film, when everyone hears the pin drop and they realise the killer has been among them all along. I’m not sure what I wanted her to say, but anything might have been OK at that point. Just to break the silence, which in reality only lasted a minute. Though historically, it had resided between us my whole life. Such as safety signs, it was something everyone read and abided by, but never decided to discuss.
Two hands on the table for support, she raised herself to the high cupboard and grabbed a bottle of vodka. Only perhaps a quarter were left, which fascinated me, as the child of a mother, who as far as I was aware didn’t drink, and a father who condemned vodka to hell for that one bare memory. But now my mother continued effortlessly to take two glasses and pour.
Slightly uncomfortable with the apprehension – and possibly considering my mother had forgotten I was not old enough – I watched her place one glass in front of me while the other remained gripped in her palm. For a moment I didn’t drink and she smiled proudly, but stated “If there is any good time to drink with your mother, make it now.”
So I took it in one gulp and let it burn inducing a scrunched neck and body.
“It’s better with lemonade,” my mum said and she poured me another trickle of vodka, allowing me to tell her when to stop. The rest was filled with lemonade and true to her word, it was now a sweeter and sensual drink which calmed me. Suddenly the moment wasn’t so bad.
“This is what men do” she continued, “They celebrate their break ups. Women only drink from despair, apparently. But I drink with a big smile on my face, with my friends and I laugh and let myself forget what the hell I’m doing just for a night and I wake up with a huge headache telling myself – this is not because of the alcohol. This is because you have a problem,” We laughed for a moment as she said we would, “Then I literally go and piss all my problems away!”
For a few moments we just laughed and she told me some tipsy stories. She had always been good at telling stories, yet I was not used to enjoying them as much as this moment. Then again, this was my first experience drinking and I didn’t know what would be happening to me.
“They’re all arseholes,” my mother exclaimed confidently. I sheepishly tried to avoid jumping to that conclusion. Perhaps she didn’t notice. If she did, she carried on anyway, “There’ll be a rare few moments when you think – goodness – a diamond in the rut. But trust me, they’re all the same… Bastards.”
She spoke down angrily to her cup. Oddly it was not forcing her to talk.
“Are you OK?” tears were welling in her eyes and I had only just recently stopped my own.
“I’m fine, how are you doing?” she smiled like she was normal and for the first time I learned my mother could perfectly fake it. I mustered a nod but I wasn’t so great at pretending, which inspired one last piece of advice from my mother:
“Smile, never let them know you’re hurting.”
We continued drinking with the lighter conversation. Past hazes of vodka filled laughter, my mind delved into the scene we had just acted. I had always viewed my parents as a happy, near perfect couple. What secrecy had my mum hidden in her head?
The rest I don’t remember.