There was a night not so long ago, one when the air wasn’t quite as acrid and the company not quite as dismal as a cerebral amputee’s academic career prospects, that I grew up. Wilted flowers were all there was for decoration in the place. No neon signs, no holo adverts. It was a simple place with simple hooch; and that’s why I liked it.
Bandenburgh 6. It was something I’d never tried, and most importantly cheap. Barkeep gave me the bottle, saying nobody else ever ordered it. Code for, “Nobody will drink this swill except you. Sorry about your bad taste, go poison yourself in peace.”
So I did.
I can’t say it was delicious. I can’t even say that it was reasonably enjoyable. But it was peaty, and that was something I appreciated. It numbed the mind, just like I wanted. Things hadn’t been going well as of late--in just the loving way life knows to kick you in the back of the knee--and I needed a night to forget.
There’s one thing about life that always managed to surprise me no matter how many times it sprung out of the jack-box yelling, “Haha mofo! Fooled you again!”
It’s how things can go from bad to worse. Yeah, things are bad enough you’re in a shitty bar drinking away your sorrows while ignoring that tomorrow exists, but then BAM! Life comes in with the other shoe, the other haymaker, that one ex you’d managed to forget about, and even though you’d thought you felt the cold sliminess of rock bottom, you go plunging right through to another circle of hell.
Be sure to scream on the way down, the demons tip better if you make em laugh.
Bandenburgh 6: I will forever associate its palette with that fall--ignoring the sudden stop at the bottom courtesy of gravity. You see, on that night, in came the one person I never wanted to see. My boss over at the yards would have been much preferable, spitting, farting, incongruous banshee he was.
My dad drifted in and I could tell by his expression he’d been looking for me. There was a peculiar set of nasty wrinkles he got around the corners of his mouth--mom always said it was because he never smiled and she was probably right; I’d never seen the man smile.
In the face of imminent destruction by parental commandment, I did the only logical thing one could do in such a predicament. Took another drink, a swig straight from the bottle. It burned, and I hated every dram going down my throat.
These are all things a child could expect to see on their father’s face in such a place. I was trying to make a point after all. But no, all I saw was apathy.
I saw the dregs he held onto, the very scraps of hope that maybe I’d fulfil his expectations, die before my eyes. My heart has never felt so cold as in that moment--the moment when someone gives up on you completely.
My dad abandoned me; his wrinkles deepened; he left.
It must have been seconds, but it felt like an eternity. My chest burned and my head pounded; I couldn’t breathe. All at once I wanted to run after him to make things right, or to hide under a table and desperately hope to wake up. Instead, I drank straight from the bottle--didn’t matter how much I spilled on my jacket. It scorched my mouth, my throat, my nose. My eyes ran, and that Bandenburgh 6 burned me into the ground with its soft peaty goodness. I only came up for air when the barkeep spoke up.
“Hey kid, yous know him?”
“No. Never seen him in my life.” The words came easily. It haunts me how easily so.
Life changed at that moment. I was on my own; I had no home to go back to, no family, no close friends. It was me versus the world, no more safety nets.
“Call me Luis.” He grunted, never looking up from his cracked glassware.
“Never order this stuff again.” I let the empty bottle drift away in the low g. “It’s awful.”
You know how there are times you’ll smell or taste something and it will spark a memory? A memory so strong you can see and feel all the little details, even remember what you were thinking at that moment? The metallic air on stations, fresh cooked bread, or even what your childhood bed smelled like. That’s your brain working, making a connection that defies logic. You see, taste and smell are intertwined so closely that without one it’s hard to have the other. Conditioned responses: your brain links the taste and smell with the memory of the first time you encountered it.
Normally it’s a glimpse into your past, often things you’d forgotten. It’s a glimpse into part of your life lost, something to cherish. But for me--and some of you out there--there are some things that drag up memories I’d rather forget.
Bandenburgh 6 is mine.
I’ll never be able to get near the stuff without seeing my dad give up on me all over again.
I try to keep my head up, but as with everyone, there are times when it’s hard not to dwell on past mistakes. Regret is normal. It’s okay to mess up. But it’s not okay to let it consume you, become your life. I can’t say how many months I wasted on 7 Alpha after my dad abandoned me. Most of the nights were spent in Luis’ bar, drinking anything but Bandenburgh 6 and listening to crusty jazz.
He made sure I came up for breath while I drowned, and I came out stronger at the end.
Feel your regret and learn from it. Cry, rage, and beat your fists until they bleed.
Next time you can choose.
Next time I choose to go after him.
I’m sorry dad, wherever you are, and goodbye.
Styles Yugen, signing off.