You’ve caught whiffs of the bitter liquor lingering on your boyfriend’s breath and you feel bad that he feels the need to hide it from you like you feel the need to hide it from your own family, so you make a conscious effort to keep your mouth shut about the whole thing. Don’t spend too much time wondering if that isn’t what everyone else around the table is doing.You won’t like the answer. No one ever does. The turkey, despite your best efforts, is going to be dry this year, just like last year, just like always. Stick to the spiral ham and try hiding the green beans that taste like the metal can they were borne of underneath the mashed potatoes. That’s been your mother’s solution for years. Your father will lean in your direction when he belches at the dinner table and you will grit teeth, just a little, before swallowing a gulp or three of wine. Avoid meeting the glares that action inspires. You promised you wouldn’t get sloppy drunk this time, and you really meant it. The first night you and your boyfriend spent in your childhood bedroom, as you squeezed each other for warmth and comfort in your twin-sized bed, he had to tell you several times to stop apologizing for everything you feel responsible for. The second night he doesn’t stop you at all and on the third night he wonders—aloud, so really not so much wondering at all—if wouldn’t one of you be a bit more comfortable on the living room couch. He lets you get as far as the doorway with a pillow from the bed in the apartment you share with him before asking if you wouldn’t mind turning off the light in the hallway. The sad truth is: You really don’t.
There’s a bottle of bourbon behind the bedpost in your childhood bedroom because your parents would be horrified if they knew how much alcohol you need to drink to be around them duringthe holidays.
Alissa M. Fehlbaum is working on her MFA at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she also teaches creative writing. She was raised in Mabank, Texas, and received her BA from the University of North Texas.