The laughter disappears from her face. She slumps. “You didn’t know him.”
“I bet your pop collected baseball cards as a kid without knowing who any of the players actually were.” There’s a lump in my throat; I’m angry, of all things. “I bet he trembled, looking at those cars, thinking someone might notice he’d been faking all that time.”
“Shut up,” Miriam says.
“I bet the same thing’s true about your brother. Still stealing Barbies because he never learned to do anything else. And you? I don’t know your story; maybe you just get off on thinking you figured it all out. That’s how older people get. You’re certain as a kid, then in your thirties you realize you’re dumb, and then a few years later you think you figured it all out again. Never admitting you’re just repeating yourself, again.”
She’s quiet, and I feel awful. No reason to, given what’s coming, but there it is, regret sprawling out in my guts. I used to think that being an alcoholic just meant the drink was omnipresent, that you couldn’t stand without a beer in your hand. But alcohol dependence doesn’t grant new immunities; it just makes you drunk all of the time. Stupid and careless stamped on your forehead.
“I didn’t blow out my knee in college,” I mumble, turning to watch the basketball highlights. A child dunks a ball, and the children in the bleachers all rise in unison.