June 15, 2012 by The Citron Review
There, south of the half-moon sliver of a fingernail. My sight pools on the blood drooling patiently from the crevices of his skin, the thumb picked out to be picked on. I want to say his skin was peach. Peach as in the color of the leather loveseat in our living room. My mother called it orange. My father, tan. We were never too poetic with colors, were not very conclusive. My father was colorblind. Browns confusing themselves with greens. Perhaps he looked more like the bland color of an old Sedan. Nothing bold or shocking, no peach or orange, just a muted tan. He never said much.
Driving together to Home Depot to buy wood the color of a dying tree, my father is high on sobriety. I stare into the moments of dust flying with his sprightly ashy hands as they tap a beat on the steering wheel to “The White Album.” His large muted hands turn the black leather wheel. The sun shifts positions. The dust settles into being unseen, retreating from my sight. A shadow considers itself across the liveliness of his sober eyes. It resolves on his nose, the brim of his gray golf cap the source. I hated that hat—without reason.
In the car, we slowly turn down rigid angles of residential streets. Crawl through the back entrance of Home Depot. An orange sign. Orange unlike our furniture. Something needs to be built. We still haven’t found a conversation. He steers with his left hand, the yellow crack of a nail catching a gray shadow. Gray, not peach, but gray like his body, like how it was when I kissed his forehead that one and only time, after he was dead. His right hand is consumed with holding thirty-two ounces of coffee. Some addictions must persist.
And there were clouds; white, not gray, painted above my bed when he would come into my room at night, drunk, to kiss my forehead asleep.
I look down at my hands.
I wonder if I’m an alcoholic.
The skin on his thumb peels back with a pick. His index finger nuzzles it with an air of control, that of which he is certain now unfurling in this motion. This subject he knows well.
Are you worried? He asks me as he looks up from the peach nail creviced with bits of blood. His dark brown eyes focus on the orange sign ahead, my answer waiting tentatively in the air.
After Home Depot, after he starts drinking again, after he dies of alcohol poisoning, after I pass out each night for six years, after that, my answer becomes yes. I am worried.
There is a scab on my thumb now. I pick at my skin liked he picked at his. The things I learned from my father. Like drinking, like how peach flesh turns gray when its dead and you kiss it away.
The sunlight urges the idea of peach. I try to remember his as alive, but come up only with the image of life slowly seeping out of him. I forgot to say he was building me a bookcase to hold words of love he did not know how to utter. I threw the bookcase out just yesterday, the alley’s tar sticking to the cheap wood.
Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Windy City Times, Make/shift, THIS, Sleet Magazine, Spittoon, Stone Highway, the Seal Press anthology It’s All in Her Head and on www.feministing.com. A resident of Minneapolis, MN, Chelsey is currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays about finding the concept of home in the body, as well as a second collection of essays, in which this essay appears, tilted ‘There Is Nothing Else to See Here.”