Drinks with Dad – A short story by India Roberts
Picture by Joonas kääriäinen
Drinks with Dad by India Roberts
Theo always had clear eyes in the morning. He would open them and he could see as sharply as if he had just woken up in fresh white snowfall. They felt crisp and crucial and he didn’t want to close them because clarity was hard to come by. He’d had girlfriends before who would pick at the crust gathering in the corners of their eyes and call it ‘angel dust’. He normally broke up with them in a month or two. Today though, it felt like superglue had seeped into his skin and he had to heave his eyelids apart to be able to see. A golden hue frilled the edges of his periphery. He blinked and scrubbed at his eyes, but his ceiling still looked like it was steeped in champagne. Cracks in the paint looked like ripples in a glass, and Theo breathed in a sweet fragrance and wondered as to whether he had fallen into a barrel of crushed grapes. He looked beside him. The bed was empty. The latest one left last night, a small suitcase bumbling behind her as she looked at him with that expression of forlorn disappointment that he was so used to.
He looked at his fizzing and crackling ceiling, and his outstretched hands became swarmed with the tiny bubbles of a champagne flute, nesting tight together on his forearms. He rubbed them. He expected to hear them pop and disappear like balloons at a birthday party, but his arms were still fringed with beads of air. Theo hurtled upright. His heart felt like it was sinking until it was dangling around his feet as he realised that it had happened again. He looked around his familiar glass cage and waded his hands through the champagne he had woken up in. The first time it had happened, he had drunk all the booze surrounding him, slurping and swallowing until the empty glass cradled his sprawling body. Eventually, he fell asleep and woke up with the glass replenished and his head feeling like it had been rattled around a washing machine. He had learnt not to yawn until his head had broken the surface and he could breathe in the bitter air. With his head poked out of the depths, Theo’s legs thrashed around until he remembered how to swim. No matter how many times this had happened, he still hadn’t found the way out. He would scramble to the top of the glass until his fingernails would ache and he’d have to slide back down to his pillowy bed, bubbles swarming his skin.
Theo’s father had loved champagne. Dinners between them would come around twice a year and the champagne glass would be shining, clasped between his father’s red, fat fingers.
‘Cheers, son,” he would say, before draining the gold liquid in his glass. ‘I have to leave, I’m afraid. I have an appointment.’
He would wink and the drink in Theo’s mouth would feel like ice slicing his throat all the way to his stomach and his mouth would dry up. It was that glass that he was inside today. He could see his father’s swollen fingers pressing into the wall and the glass tilted as it was brought to thin, withering lips. The champagne sloshed around Theo and he held onto the frame of his bed to ground him to the bottom. Up and up the glass tipped until he was looking into the dark cavern of his father’s mouth with dangling pink globules of flesh bobbing up and down, guzzling the drink. All the blood teemed to Theo’s cheeks and his heart started throbbing against his chest and he thought, maybe, today could be the day that he falls. He almost let go; his hands were stiff, he was drained and he knew it would happen eventually. Today though, he stayed trapped in his father’s bulging, crushing grip, waiting to wake up again in an empty bed and a full glass, ready for another round.
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