Sliding Down the Sky
(c) Amanda Dick
“The sense of loss is such a tricky one, because we always feel like our worth is tied up into stuff that we have, not that our worth can grow with things we are willing to lose.” – Tori Amos
I spent a good part of my life hating my father. I hated the booze, I hated the way he treated my mother, and I hated the way he looked at me. I hated the man he was. I was as scared of him as I was ashamed of him. Then came that day, the day everything changed.
I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. Like all the moments in my life that shaped me into the man I am, they linger. They burn through my veins like neon, lighting me up from within. It doesn’t matter how deeply I try to bury them, I know they’re there. They carve scars deep into my heart and soul. Much like my tongue might caress the gap where a tooth used to be, my brain goes over and over these moments until they finally become part of my history. I don’t realise it at the time, but I will never be the same again.
Life can be stripped down to a few critical moments. We rarely recognise these moments as they’re happening. It’s not until much later, when the storm has passed, and with the benefit of hindsight, that we finally see them for what they are.
I was just like him.
The realisation itself was a dye, tainting everything. It leaked into my actions, my moods, the very essence of who I thought I was, until there was no point fighting it anymore. The situation I now found myself in was simply a culmination of all of that.
Jail cells had a particular smell, and this one was no different. A unique blend of vomit, urine and misery, overlaid with the not-so-delicate scent of bleach.
So far I’d managed to keep the booze down. I should’ve eaten, but that would’ve been counter-productive. My goal, if I’d been thinking clearly enough to have one, was to get rip-snorting, memory-erasing, coma-inducing drunk – drunk enough to forget about everything – but I couldn’t even manage to do that right. I should’ve been disappointed in myself, but I couldn’t even muster up the necessary disgust anymore.
The room seemed to tilt and I leaned forward to keep up with it, my head in my hands. I tried not to think. I didn’t want to think, but even when you don’t want to think, it happens anyway. Just like when your heart hurts so much, you convince yourself that this is it – it can’t get any worse. Then someone twists a knife and you find a new level of pain.
That’s what had happened to me tonight. I’d found a new level of pain, and it was cutting me to ribbons.
I swallowed back a combination of vomit and tears, my nostrils twitching as I fought against the impulse. I was not going to throw up or cry. I just wasn’t. I wished I had my phone. How many calls had I missed? What was going on out there?
I was in the cell with a couple of other guys, one much older, sleeping it off on the bench that ran across the opposite wall. The other guy was younger than me. I looked up at him out of the corner of my eye. He’d barely moved in the hour since I’d been thrown in here, and he hadn’t uttered a word. He was like me – the strong, stupid type. He just sat there, his back to the wall, watching everything. He didn’t look drunk, but then some of us hid it well. Instead, he looked like a simmering volcano. That look in his eye was all too familiar.
Only, my anger was waning. Teetering on the brink for so long, I could feel it burning away, taking with it the soul-destroying sense of betrayal and even the confusion. Now, I was just broken. Broken, and drunk, and too exhausted to search for a way out of this mess.
I sank my fists into my hair and pulled tight. It was pure distraction, like stomping on my foot to take my mind off a sore thumb. Maybe, if I ripped my hair out by the roots, it’d take my mind off the ache in my chest.
Self-preservation kicked in though, and I let go, choking back a sob that sounded more like a gasp. I wanted to sink into a deep ocean of self-pity, allowing the water to swallow me up without a trace, but I didn’t have that luxury.
I was wasting time. I had to get out of there. I had to get the hell out of there and see her, before it was too late.
I lurched to my feet, the floor leaning sideways as I hurled myself at the bars.
“Hey!” I shouted. “I need my phone call!”
“Can anyone hear me?”
“You’re wasting your time.”
I turned, still hanging on to the bars to keep my balance. The younger guy regarded me from across the cell, his eyes narrowing as if I was something he’d just scraped off his shoe.
“I need my phone call,” I said again.
“You have to wait, just like the rest of us. They’ll be back.”
He was right. I should’ve known that. This wasn’t my first rodeo. My heart sank and the despair was instant and absolute, wrapping cold arms around me and squeezing so tight, I had trouble breathing.
While I sat there, suffocating in self-pity, she could be dying.
She could be dying, and I wasn’t there.
“I don't think your ability to fight has anything to do with how big you are. It's to do with how much anger is in you.” – Amy Winehouse
Five Weeks Earlier
Barney’s was filled to capacity, which was unusual for a Wednesday night. So unusual that it was starting to piss me off. I wanted to lose myself, but the noise in there was distracting. I’d arrived late and lost my usual booth in the far corner, so I’d found myself at the bar instead, which was handy for refills but not what I had in mind when I came in.
To make it worse, I’d been jostled and shoved from all directions. I could feel the beast inside me beginning to stir. I tried to drown it with booze, but we both knew it was a temporary fix.
As if to illustrate my point, the guy beside me bumped into me a second time, spilling my beer down the front of my shirt. That was the final straw. I turned around and gave him a shove back, sending him sprawling into his friends, friends I hadn’t noticed until that moment. That should’ve been my warning, but I was way past seeing signs.
I didn’t even know who the guy was, I only knew he worked over at the mill, was clumsy and had a big mouth. That’s not true, I knew something else about him, too – he was big. Taller than me, so maybe six-three or six-four, with a face that was perfect for radio. He also seemed to think he was bulletproof, but I was about to prove him wrong.
He turned around, and suddenly I was faced with four of them, all varying combinations of huge, drunk and angry. That should’ve slowed me down, or had me pausing at least, but it didn’t. It was a challenge, and I loved a challenge.
“You got a problem, dude?” he asked, giving me the once-over from the feet up.
That pissed me off even more.
“Yeah, I have. You just spilled beer all over me, asshole.”
One of his friends laughed. He actually laughed, although I failed to see the humour in the situation.
“Think that’s funny?” I demanded, slamming what was left of my beer on the bar.
The universal sign for ‘bring it on, punk’.
“Take it ouside!”
Harry’s voice was swallowed up in the melee as the situation rapidly deteriorated. I saw red, and it blurred out almost everything around me. The room seemed to sway and heave with people as the guy came barrelling towards me. I should’ve known. I should’ve seen what was happening, but the beer had dulled my senses. I turned my head at the last moment and his fist connected with my cheekbone, jarring my entire skull. The room began to swim as I grabbed onto him and took him to the floor with me. I got in one good punch, one decent, solid hit that got him right in the ribcage, and he rolled off me, his arms wrapped protectively around his gut.
The next thing I knew, two of his friends were frog-marching me across the crowded room, the three of us parting the crowd like the Red Sea. It all happened so fast. One minute, we were on the ground, the next, I was flying out the door. It was one of those surreal moments, like something out of a dream. The anger that had consumed me only moments before dissipated, and I was left hollow and confused, struggling to make sense of the sudden change of scenery.
I landed on the pavement outside on my hands and knees. That woke me up and took care of the dream sequence in one fell swoop. Reality flooded in, like a movie with the sound suddenly switched to full volume.
They yelled something at me that I didn’t catch, then one of them kicked me in the ribs for good measure. The impact blinded me, forcing me over onto my back as I curled into the foetal position to protect myself. Pain, immediate and intense, bloomed through my torso like a virus, making my head spin. I fought back the urge to throw up as I tried to breathe through it. I heard the door to the bar slam shut behind me and then I was alone.
I lay there for a while, trying to catch my breath, watching it turn into fog in the cold night air.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been thrown out of a bar, and it probably wasn’t gonna be the last time either. Why was it that booze numbed your senses when you were physically fine, but as soon as someone drove a boot into your ribs – or a fist into your face, or nose, or any other part of you – you felt everything?
I wasn’t sure if that was aimed at him or me. Probably both. I was just as worthy of it, especially lately. It was a wonder that Harry hadn’t barred me already – I sure as hell deserved it. The anger swam around inside me, searching for a release. Booze made it worse, but it also made the flipside easier to bear.
It was eating me up inside. The booze took my mind off it, at least for a while. I’d yet to discover what the answer was, long-term. I wasn’t even sure I wanted one.
With a grunt, I heaved myself to my knees and then to my feet, staggering slightly. I looked up and down the street, but it was empty. Not a soul was out at this time of the night, and those that were, were inside Barney’s.
I was drunk and stupid, but not suicidal, and sure as hell not capable of driving.
My ribs ached and I tried to take shallow breaths as I made my way down the empty street in the dark, towards home.
"If her first book didn't cinch it, this companion novel sure did. Yes, Amanda Dick is now one of those authors that I need to keep my eye on because she's proven twice over just how adept she is in weaving these highly emotional stories and making it more than just a love story. What I got from both her books are life stories, and they aren't just limited to the main characters.." - Jen Valencia - 12 April 2016
"In a powerfully moving story Amanda Dick brings to life two beautifully damaged characters, which with their flaws and insecurities, equally enhance this story of survival and change. This story is told in dual points of view, allowing for both characters and their hardship to be equally represented. However, unlike many books told in alternating voices, Dick flawlessly and uniquely highlights Callum’s journey from selfish to selfless, through both points of view." - Vivian Freeman - Beaute de Livres (Beauty of Books) - 11 April 2016