This is a short story I wrote for a festive challenge at Writer's Block (a small writers' community, http://yotnasden.co. uk/forum/vb/index.php) a while ago. It's very different to what I usually write, but I still want to share it with interested readers. I hope you will enjoy it.
Hi, folks. My name is Ray Fukamensto. Don't laugh, folks. I know what you're thinking. It's pronounced Foo-ka-MENS-tou, not Fuck-a-MENS-toe.
Anyway, yesterday was the anniversary of my second and current marriage. I've never, or rarely, been so happy in my life as this past year. It's a total turnaround when compared with my first marriage. Nevertheless, I never could have believed my happiest anniversary could be so disturbing for me. But that's something to be told later on.
My first marriage had never been really enjoyable, other than the first few days when I and my wife screwed each other like bunnies, nearly non-stop, and also when our kids were born. In hind sight, I'm not sure if I was stupid, or if my parents were stupid, to have acknowledged, or accepted, the responsibility to have this marriage started.
It started when I went over to pick up my girlfriend Josephine -- or Jo, as everyone would call her. In fact, up until now, I'm still uncertain if I should have even called her my girlfriend. I'd only dated her once, and we had sex during that date. I didn't get to go out with her until two months later, on the day of my high school graduation, and that was when the nightmare began. She told me she was pregnant and I was the father, because I was the only guy who had slept with her for the past several months.
You guessed it right. Even though I believed I was in love with her, I denied responsibility. How could a teen who could barely make it to graduation want to be a father? It was the only time her tears had no effect on me.
Things changed a few evenings later when I came home to find Jo's parents talking with my folks. They were supposed to be friends as they had known each others for decades, but it was the first time I'd seen Jo's parents at my parents' house. They all considered me responsible to what had happened to Jo, and a man's responsibility was to take care of the mother and the baby. It was also my only choice if I wanted to stay at my folks' house.
I was unemployed and didn't have a chance to go to college, due to both academic and financial reasons. My choices were either to become a homeless single guy or a husband and father living in his folks' house. I chose the latter. You don't have to tell me that I made a stupid decision. But, hey, I was stupid back then, although I probably still am.
My father was a handyman and had suggested to me that I follow him, but I disliked that trade. My father-in-law was so nice to me he found me an opportunity working at an entertainment park. I kind of liked that job. My favorite duty was operating the roller coaster, but most often they made me wear that fluffy mascot suit, which I really hated.
Most girls working at the entertainment park were about my age, and a few of them were quite casual when it came to intimacy. I won't pretend to be a salt of the earth, and admit I had a few brief joyful experiences with them. Sometimes I felt sorry after the pleasure for having cheated behind my wife, even though the girls didn't care. Sometimes I didn't care either, because every married guy there I knew did the same thing.
All the pitiful feelings I'd been experiencing for several months vanished when our first daughter was born. I'd never seen a prettier face in my entire life. The instant I saw her, I loved her more than any living creature I'd ever seen. I was so glad I'd made the right decision. We named her Karen. The existence of Karen also rekindled my relationship with Jo, as well as creating a closer bond between me and my parents.
Two years later our son Larry was born. By this time we had already moved out of my parents' house and lived in a small apartment. I was still working at the entertainment park, and I had a few chances of being promoted, but every time they gave the chances to some smarter, harder working, and nicer looking guys and girls. I was a little upset every time, but I had a warm and loving family I could return to after work, a luxury not many of my coworkers had.
Jo started working part-time a couple of years later. She didn't graduate from her high school, but she was much smarter than I was. She started out as a part-time receptionist at a hair saloon, and gradually earned her hair dresser license. Our financial situation had also improved steadily, even though I still hadn't gotten a promotion.
Another couple of years later, I thought I was eventually getting a promotion when I was called to my supervisor's office at the entertainment park, but instead I was laid off as they were downsizing their operation following an economic slump.
If this was a hit in my arm, it was a full blown punch in my nose a month later, when Jo told me she wanted a divorce. She told me the reason was our inability to live in harmony. She also told me she wanted the kids, and offered to waive the alimony requirement in return. I was unemployed, and I couldn't feed and take care of our kids while looking for a job, not to mention I didn't have the financial resource for a lengthy legal battle. I eventually agreed.
Yeah, you guessed it right again. I became an alcoholic. I drifted from one brief placement to another, and lived in a rat's nest. I only cleaned and tidied myself up every alternate weekend when I went and visited my kids.
I underestimated Jo. Right after our divorce, and possibly during the process, I'd been suspecting that she was involved with another man. I was wrong. She might be otherwise involved, but she lived by herself, making a decent living, and raising our kids well. She even encouraged me to quit drinking and work harder for my own sake, but why should I care?
A year later, Jo remarried. Her new husband was an album label producer. They met a few months ago when he was a customer of her hair saloon. I still got to go to their house to visit my kids, but I found it increasingly uneasy for me, mentally, while I hung around with my kids at their backyard or in the nearby parks in a nice suburban environment.
My last job before I quit drinking was serving as a bouncer at a night club. One night, I thought I was the last one beside the manager to leave when I found a young background singer Zoë weeping half-naked on the floor in the locker room, slowly putting on her clothes. I stared at her chest and thighs as I asked her what had happened, but she didn't tell. She kept on weeping even after she'd dressed and was on her way out of the club.
I hadn't been in that job for long, but I'd been told, and I also knew, that the fewer questions I asked, the better it would be for everyone. I checked the whole place again before I told the manager that the place was cleared and then left myself. I saw Zoë outside the club. She told me she had no place to stay for the night. Even though it was illogical, because she had to have a place to stay the night before, I agreed to let her stay at my place for the night.
Nah, don't be such a pervert, folks. I didn't fuck Zoë. In fact, I started drinking the moment I stepped into my room in a flophouse. I could barely see she came out of my bathroom wrapped in my only clean towel before I passed out in my chair.
When I woke up the next day, Zoë was already gone, but she'd also tidied up my place somehow. It was nice for her to have done that, whether she treated it as a payment in lieu or a gesture of care. I saw her at the club that night, but we didn't talk, nor did she come to my place again. A week or so later though, Zoë stopped showing up at work.
When I returned home from visiting my kids a couple of weeks later, I saw Zoë sitting on the floor outside my door. She followed me into my place without a word. She again used my bath and bed and cleaned up my place in return. We remained having this strange landlord and tenant relationship for another week before we really started talking to each other.
Zoë had moved over from a small town a few months ago, seeking opportunities in various clubs. She'd been sharing a room with another background singer. She was sexually assaulted by her roommate's boyfriend before she moved out. She was offered a bed by another singer at the club, only to find herself a target of abuse by him and assaults by his friends. The safest place on earth for her over the past several weeks had been my dirty and filthy room.
Zoë went on working on and off at different clubs while staying with me. I wasn't sure if she did so because my bed was free, or whether it was because I was drunk every night and wouldn't assault her.
A few weeks later, I was fired by my manager when he caught me stealing a bottle of liquor. Zoë was practicing her singing in my room when I came back. After finding out what had happened to me, she put aside her cassette recorder and talked to me. "I don't know," she said softly. "But I think one day I'll make it. I know I can sing. I'll work hard on it and I know I'll have a future. What about you?"
I didn't say a word, but found a bottle of cheap liquor from the chest of drawers. However, before I started gulping, Zoë ran over and snatched the bottle away from me. "Did you hear me?" she said, raising her tone a little and with a stern look on her face.
I stared at her. It was the first time I really looked at her face and paid attention. She was almightily beautiful. No wonder she'd been assaulted so often before. If I'd seen her when I was working at the entertainment park, I wouldn't have hesitated to put a move on her. Of course it was different now. I didn't care about anything except when I was with my kids during my biweekly visits, but that joy had also been diminishing as I could sense a gap growing between my kids and me.
"Give it back to me," I said dryly to her, while reaching out my shaky hand.
"Do your kids know what you do every night, gulping down a bottle before you pass out in your goddamn chair? Ray, this is the safest place for me on earth, but it's also disgusting to see a guy like you. I've never..."
I didn't hear the later part of her speech, because I'd started weeping. I didn't know how much my kids knew about my life. I was sure they would turn their back on me if they knew about my drinking problem. I'd lost most things I owned after my divorce with Jo, but I'd lost definitely everything once I'd started drinking.
I didn't even know whether I'd been weeping all the time, or had I been talking with Zoë. But by the time I'd regained consciousness, I was in my chair stroking Zoë's hair while she was sitting on the floor with her head on my lap. We remained in that position the entire night.
I decided to quit drinking. I couldn't afford going to institutions, so I had to do it with my willpower alone. Actually I wasn't alone, because I had Zoë with me. I didn't know how she made it, but she happened to be beside me whenever my demon took over and I was about to get a bottle again.