A hand shook John awake. Groggily, he looked up as his eyes slowly adjusted to the brightness of the Darwin terminal. An attractive blonde woman in her early twenties stood above him, the hint of a faint smile touched her lips as she waited for him to awaken. He struggled to shake the grogginess off.
“What time is it?” he sleepily asked.
“It’s nearly nine p.m., Sir. Your flight has been delayed again. I’m afraid it won’t leave until morning. I’m sorry about the inconvenience. We’ve organised a hotel room for you at our expense. There’s a taxi ready to take you. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you the way.”
John slowly stood, at six foot tall, her was nearly a head taller than the airline attendant. He followed behind her, his mind drifting in dazed melancholy. He found himself thinking of how much she reminded him of a more youthful Alison. Wistfully, he considered the possibilities he could pursue if his father’s murder was not hanging over his head. Of course, if that had not happened he would not be here. He mused that he should probably dismiss it all as a moot point. He struggled to focus on something, anything that would take his mind off the recurrent images of his long-standing argument with his father.
“You’re an alcoholic, John.”
John nearly leapt out of his skin. He had not heard his father come into the lounge room of the small three bedroom house they shared in the inner-suburbs of Adelaide. He certainly had not been prepared for his father’s accusation. His mind slightly slow from the effects of the half-empty bottle of bourbon in his hands, he swung himself up from the couch to combat his father’s words.
“You can barely stand,” his father interjected before he could speak, “And you’ve been this way all week. And every week-end for as long as I can remember, since before you dropped out of uni and fucked your life up.”
John recoiled at the mention of his decision to leave university. It had not been for him. He was not the studious type. He preferred action, though he had not seen much of that lately. And anyway, regardless of what his father said, his life was not fucked-up now. He had heard that line too many times to care anymore. The alcoholism was a new one though. Just because he liked to drink every now and then, and just because this was the second (or was it the third?) time this week that he had gotten drunk alone at home… These were not reasons to accuse him of being an alcoholic. He was better than that. He was still in control of himself, not like those pathetic bums or coons he saw in the park lands.
“Do you even have anything to say for yourself?” His father interrupted his stream of thoughts, breaking the lengthy silence that had permeated the room.
John stood there silently as he tried to formulate the words to explain to his father that he was not an alcoholic, that he did not need the booze, and that he chose to get drunk. That he chose to drink because, well, because it was more fun than sitting around watching more painful reality TV shows. Besides it was the only to silence those other thoughts.
“You’re a disgrace, John. I’m ashamed to call you my son. Clean up your act or get out of my house.”
Shocked and aghast, John’s immediate reaction was disbelief and horror. Rapidly this turned to anger and resentment.
“What right have you got to tell me to clean up my act, old man?” he screamed at his father, “You who stood there and watched her agony? You who did nothing to help her? You who drove her to her death? You who weren’t even there when she died? You have no right to be ashamed of me. I should be ashamed of you. Father.”
John’s father physically recoiled from the assault, infuriated by the accusations of his complicity in his wife’s death. Without thought he stepped towards John, his fists clenching at his side.
“You don’t mean that, John. You know as well as I do that there was nothing any of us could have done to save her. Imagine what she would think if she was still here. She’d be horrified. She’d blame herself for your incompetence. She’d be ashamed of you.”
John stood in mute terror as the image of his mother crying over his actions assaulted his drunken mind. His father stood, paused, struggling to regain control of his temper.
“Get out of the my house, John, and don’t come back until you’re sober.”
John shouldered his way past his father, slamming the door behind him. He strode off into the night with only his half empty bottle of bourbon as company. John’s father slouched against the wall. Shock, anger, and sorrow flooded his consciousness, as he slid down the wall, tears welling in his eyes.