I woke with a congealed cheese fry stuck to my face,
the room too big, so I called my mother on the phone,
my responses forming an odd jazz song:
while I tried not to burp up the gin and lukewarm tonic
I swallowed from my blue-swirled coffee cup.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, but I was ready,
drunks are always ready until we are not,
so I said, “Nothing, ma, only a little homesick.”
I am sick for something, but it is not home.
I gulped down a too-hot McDonald’s breakfast sandwich
and hash brown after grinning like a loon at the cashier,
who winked and said, “You pretty.”
After, the vinyl console in my truck covered
with frantic fingerprints, streaks evident where I’d dragged
my hands to clean them, I parked just inside the lines
and marched doggedly into work for a meeting.
I left at three in the afternoon and went to a bar,
trying to read Berryman through my third and fourth
gin & tonics of the day, always gin, my closest friend,
my favorite, clear-eyed liar, and did not meet the eyes of
the bartender except to get my ticket, and on the tip line,
I was generous, 40%, for her complicity, for her lack of pity.
By evening, exhausted, I slept it off in a parking lot,
a hobo drumming on the hood of my truck when he passed,
for the hell of it, because a cop was nearby,
who can say? My head heavy but sober,
aggressively sober, so I pulled out onto the road
that becomes a yawning state route after two miles,
the only good thing I’ve found since I left the city,
and drove and drove until my gas tank pinged a warning,
looped around, and let the road guide me home,
Emmylou singing on the radio, cooling my burning eyes,
a song from when she was still chestnut-haired,
young enough to beg for a last dance.
After a Party, I Get Lonely and Call My Mother, Who Listens to Me Eat Cheetos and Cry
Scarlett’s brought edibles, little flat discs of
sticky Rice Krispies with flecks of weed like
trapped fruit flies.
An hour later, I’m baked and restless,
so I leave and walk home.
I dial her before I really think about it.
“Hello?” she asks, and I know
what’s coming before she says it:
“You remembered you had a mama?”
I listen to her talk,
imagine her padding around the house,
switching off lights and coaxing our arthritic dog
to take another trip outside.
“I really miss you,” I say.
“I miss you, too, I sat in your room and
cried for an hour last week,”
she says, as brisk as ever about her grief.
“Are you drunk?” she adds.
“A little. And I’m high.”
I sit at the kitchen table
as she tells me what she’s bought me for Christmas,
because she can’t help herself.
I put her on speaker,
rest my head on my arms.
Pretend she’s in the room.
Ernestine Montoya is a writer from Texas living in Milledgeville, Georgia. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Sediments Literary-Arts Journal and Into the Void Magazine.