elaine.louise

Canada

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
—E.L. Doctorow

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Half-Sober

June 22, 2016

It’s 1:30 am. Eighteen year old Michelle and her boyfriend Jackson are sitting on the curb outside a cheap bar. The street is quiet except for the muffled music and chatter coming inside the bar. 

MICHELLE: I feel like crap.

JACKSON: I told you to stop drinking.

MICHELLE: You should’ve physically restrained me.

JACKSON: Easier said than done.

(Michelle and Jackson sit quietly for a few moments)

MICHELLE: You’re going to tell my mom, aren’t you?

JACKSON: Yeah. But hey, I’m doing you a favour here - you’re drunk enough that she’d notice on her own, so this way you don’t have to explain anything.

MICHELLE: I’ll have to explain why I was out drinking past one with a guy I’ve been dating for two months. You’ll probably have some explaining to do, too.

JACKSON: (sarcastically) I’m definitely looking forward to that. Which gun do you think your dad will bring to the door?

MICHELLE: (laughing) My dad won’t care. It’s Mom you have to worry about. She’s been so uptight lately, it wouldn’t surprise me if she brought the gun out.

JACKSON: Is it that bad?

MICHELLE: (answers after a short pause) Yeah. It’s funny, you know? She tries so hard to pretend everything’s okay. It drives me crazy. I hate it there. 

JACKSON: There must be something you like.

MICHELLE: (laughs sarcastically) Yeah, right. Although... I guess it’s not so bad when it’s just me and Mom and my brother. It’s really just... 

JACKSON: Just what?

MICHELLE: My dad. He’s the real problem. He’s never home, but I know where he is. Mom tries really hard to cover for him, but I know. He’s always out getting drunk with his friends. Probably knocking up some waitresses, too, from the way Mom cries at night. She wants us to be this perfect little family, but anyone with two eyes can see we're not. (pauses, then continues as if a new thought has occurred to her) I bet he'll leave. One of these days, he'll just leave and never come back. 

JACKSON: Wouldn’t you miss him?

MICHELLE: If I did, it wouldn’t be much. Mom could finally get some peace. My brother would do better in school. And maybe I'd actually stop... 

JACKSON: Stop what?

MICHELLE: (gestures to the bar) This. All this. You saw me tonight. You only had one drink, but me... I wouldn’t have stopped if you hadn’t been here. I would've been in that bar till I was so hungover the moonlight hurt my eyes. (starts to sound hysterical) I would've been in there till I couldn't tell night from day, till the only thing that made sense was the glasses piling up in front of me—

JACKSON: (pulls Michelle closer to him) Hey, stop, it’s okay— 

MICHELLE: (pushes Jackson away) You’re doing it too! Why does everything always have to be okay? (Michelle stands up, yelling at this point) Everything’s not okay! Everything sucks, Jackson! Life just sucks! My dad’s a cheating alcoholic, my mom’s on the verge of insanity, and I’m... (lowers voice) Well, afraid I'm... 

JACKSON: Afraid you're what? 

MICHELLE: An alcoholic, okay? My science teacher told us it’s hereditary. And when I drink, I just can’t stop... it’s like I don’t have control over anything, Jackson. (Michelle sits back down) I can’t do anything on my own. I’m so helpless. I can’t even control myself. I don’t know what to do. I don't know what I would do if I ended up like him. (pauses, laughs bitterly) I bet you’re going to tell my mom that, too.

JACKSON: I wasn’t planning on it.

MICHELLE: You weren’t?

JACKSON: Why would I?

MICHELLE: It’s just... you always take such good care of me, and you’re so responsible, I just expected...

JACKSON: You’re right. I do want to take care of you. And of course I’ll tell the truth when your mom asks where we were all night, but this isn’t my call. This is something you have to decide for yourself.

MICHELLE: Jackson, I can’t tell her that I think... it would break her heart! She’d never look at me the same way again. I don’t think I could bear to have her look at me the way she looks at Dad.

JACKSON: Michelle, you’re her daughter. I’ve been around long enough to see how great you and your mom get along. Not many people get to have that. And believe me, I don't think she could look at you any differently.

MICHELLE: What’s the point, though? She can’t do anything. She couldn’t fix Dad, and she’s been trying for years. All it would do is make her worry more.

JACKSON: Like I said, it’s up to you. But I don’t think you’re giving your mom enough credit. No one can fix your dad. But you? You’re nothing like your dad. You're funny, smart, kind, not to mention beautiful. You’ve got a bright future ahead of you, and a loving family behind you. There’s still hope, Michelle. There’s always hope.

MICHELLE: (pauses for a moment) I’ve got you, too.

JACKSON: (smiles) Yeah. You’ve got me, too.

MICHELLE: So now what?

JACKSON: Well, I bet your mom is sitting on the doorstep waiting to shoot me. Personally, I’d rather get that over with sooner rather than later.

MICHELLE: (laughs) Yeah, me too.

(Jackson gets up and helps Michelle to her feet

JACKSON: Are you going to tell her?

MICHELLE: Yeah. I think I will. (pauses, looking at Jackson) Will you stay with me?

JACKSON: Of course. Unless I’ve got a bullet in my head.

MICHELLE: (smiles) Thanks, Jackson.

JACKSON: Don’t thank me. After all, someone’s got to be around to keep your crazy family in check.

(Michelle laughs, and they both exit the stage.)

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