Like Shards of Glass
The living room was a murky mess even with the sun at high noon shining through the decayed windows. The curtains that were once a pleasant cerise were significantly bleached and torn as if they had weathered a storm of colossal proportions. A few paces from where Winalen stood, there was a stain from spilled cranberry juice and vodka on the carpet that still had that spongy-wet look to it from the night prior. As she moved forward, she saw the picture her family had taken on the Christmas when she was seven. Next to it rested a vile of pine needles that like an after-shock of delving into frigid waters, struck little pricks deep in to her memory.
That was the year the Orizaga family didn’t have enough money to buy a real Christmas tree. They didn’t even have enough to put food on their table that didn’t originate from a can from the donation bins near the end of their dilapidated street. Mrs. Orizaga, Winalen, and her two brothers bought a one dollar mini-Christmas tree from the dollar store in addition to the same kind they had from last year. The tree held a resemblance to their home; bare, small, but solid enough to suffice. When they came home, Winalen found a trail of pine needles conspicuously reaching from the front door and ending in the living room. There she found the biggest Christmas tree she had ever seen with the biggest drunk they had ever known lying ingenuously and gracelessly beneath it. Everyone stood elated; everyone except the daughter of the drunken man.
The family rushed to the father as if he were a new puppy of the utmost cuteness and bore a bow on his head rather than the stench that should repulse than anything else. The first person Victor Orizaga looked for when he abruptly awoke was his darling and bright little girl. He saw her peculiar expression so he said in a slurred manner, “I gotchu a tree Win, just like you always wanted. Don’t you like it amor?”
“Daddy, she replied, of course I like it but you’re drunk and momma doesn’t like that.”
“But I got you a tree just like the ones on TV” he replied rather garbled.
Winalen’s eyes became soft and within but a moment it grew to a smile that sprung vivaciously through her face and she ran to the burly man she called Balu.
She walked forward and heard a muffled crushing beneath the soles of her ivory high heels. She looked below to find shards of glass scattered about the carpet in an almost blatant comportment. The diaphanous bits of a wineglass looked as if cubes of delicate ice had been spilled on the taupe flooring for the simple purpose of affixing a strange poignant sense of drama.
Win sighted the burgundy wooden chest she kept next to her dresser in her petite room that contained cut-out fragments from her most cherished belongings. Rummaging through them, she found a violet hair ribbon made of what appeared to be a mockery version of taffeta. As she blew off the band that was heavily overrun by dust bunnies, she thought about the day she got it.
It was 1978; the year Win was nine and her mother and two brothers were spending the night at Nana’s while the dad was to, “clean up his act,” as the mother called it. Win was the only one who decided to stay with him for the reason that everyone knew. She loved him. It was past 2:00 A.M. when Win heard her front door creak discordantly open and just the same dissonantly cuff the wall after. She awoke alarmed and instinctively plunged beneath her covers pilling them a top her one after the other. She could tell that the lights were on---someone was stomping and stumbling in to the picture frames on the naked walls, the sound was gaining speed and she felt the gap of the hallway beside her room become occupied, her space was being desecrated, the lamp in her room was suddenly lit, a tough hand clasped the sheets and pulled and all Win felt was a rush of cold air and her heart beat pound as fast as a cheetah could run and then---she heard the most grotesque and ghastly sound that gave way to the most revolting of all smells. She opened her eyes hastily but to her dismay, all she could make out was a massive shape. Her eyes seemed to be taking an eternity to adjust to the monotonous light but once that passed, she saw her father with an almost holy luminescent light behind him. They stared at one another till he let out another one of those diabolical belches then hesitantly said, “Escuze me?” They both burst into an odd cacophony of laughter to such an extent that Winalen felt as if she was burning a good amount of calories for every stomach-clenching giggle.
“You’re drunk again Pa, you’re supposed to be getting better, you said so. You scared me because it's so late and you’re so loud. You’re supposed to be better dad, you promised,” said Winalen.
“I know Win, I’m getting’ bettah see? Look what I got chu,” retorted her father.
Stepping away from him, she grabbed the coat he was pointing to on the living room chair and reached in to its inner left side pocket. She pulled out a violet hair ribbon that felt like delicate velvet and at that same moment realized that it was likely not real velvet. Her father had a tendency to go to the thrift store while he was inebriated to get Winalen a thing or two as to alleviate feeling shame from his only daughter. It didn’t matter who had worn the band or how many or even where it came from. He seemed to be trying and to her, that was always progress. They stayed awake for the rest of the early morning playing cards and eating chocolate chip cookies.
She got off the floor and shut the wooden chest closed. With tears of fond memories and pain streaking down her face, she gave the house one last run through before finally acknowledging what she really already knew; her dad was nowhere to be found. He was avoiding this day and she knew it. After she got in to high school and her parents separated, things were not ever the same. She grew up and eventually not even she could deny the distasteful smell of liqueur and mouthwash from his breath. She had chosen to stay with her mother and almost immediately after, contact between Winalen and her father declined to a minimum. She used to call him occasionally to tell him she loved him but after awkward silences on the other end continually, she gave up. Now she was leaving the state for an internship precisely 788 miles away and he couldn’t even tell her good-bye. So she left the house and silently closed the door behind her all the while turning back waiting for something, anything. She placed her key in the half leaning birdhouse they had built together when she was 12, where he would know to find it. The tears streamed once more down her face like shards of glass, in the autumn of 1995.