To Have and To Hold

To Have and To Hold

September 09, 2022 1 Comment

 

 

 

To Have and To Hold

by Sacha Bissonnette

 

My Tuesdays are not like my Thursdays. 

On Tuesdays, Shelly and I drink fast and to the point, aware of the small moments, but we bully right through them. The small moments have never really been our thing. Our thing is to get fucked up fast, together, ritualistically, surgically. I’ll tell her where it hurts this week and point to the place on my body. That’s where she’ll cut me open, where she’ll reach inside and go to work. I’ll feel the sore of my sutures as the sun crawls up my bedroom wall. She’ll never kiss me goodbye. 

Thursdays are with Marcia. She is an accountant. She is only free from six to ten. All our moments are scheduled, predetermined. We either order pho at hers or grab tacos near mine. Only rarely do we diverge from the plan. Only rarely will she get lamb over the beef. When we drink, it’s expensive red wine, never liquor. “I don’t believe in being out of sorts,” she said sternly on our first date. It felt more like an interview, her napkin repurposed as a comprehensive ranking system. She asked many questions until nine, when she invited me over to have sex. She told me I better stick to my side of the bed and if I snored to leave. She wasn’t joking. Rules are very important to Marcia. I kissed her deeply at ten and caught the ten-fifteen bus home. 



Dad took me to Florida when I was fourteen. I remember the suffocating July heat and how everything seemed tied in with it, like we were all these little house flies buzzing around Disney World, waiting to be sucked into a glue trap. The heat left us dewy and shiny. We were always moist and tired. After a day of amusement rides—I was too chicken to tell Dad how sick they made me—I’d crave a dip in the over-chlorinated motel pool. I’d wade around for hours, sipping mango smoothies that Dad left out on the ledge for me. 

I would practice backflips and he would hold up his judge’s score on cocktail napkins. I’d rarely score below a nine. From there, I watched him bring this little tiki bar to life. Well, a kind of life. Big fish in a motel pool. It was like watching a sitcom, my aging father the star, but the sitcom was getting into the later seasons and the audience was still tuned in, wondering how long could he keep this up? And the lead was losing his edge. 

We had a pool in our backyard at home in Ottawa. There, I’d dive down and hold myself under, watching the bubbles rise. I’d practice being quiet and still. I’d practice drowning out the noise of the above world. Of Dad’s vodka-fueled anger. Dad spat so much when he screamed. Mom was a thrower. Anything within reach. She could pitch like a pro. I went down to the basement freezer a few times to get him a bag of frozen blueberries to ice different parts of his body. The same blueberries she baked into the most delicious pies. All the holes punched into the walls started to look like the constellations I’d string together as I lay floating in our pool. 

In Florida, I didn’t have to hide. Mom wasn’t around and I could have all the sugary drinks I wanted. This was part of the bribe. He wanted me to buy into this daddy timeshare. As if this could be more than a one-time escape. That’s the thing about vacations, they can trick you into thinking that they’re not exactly that. That I could stay by this pool, sipping mango smoothies until I drowned. He would swing by, smelling sweet. 

“Florida women are different, man. They’re fiery, got something behind the eyes, man.” 

He always called me man. I wasn’t a man, but was starting along that path, wondering what the women looked like under their swimsuits and wraps, as he spun them around to Jimmy Buffet. Always Buffet. Watching him reaching for their lower backs and kissing them on their necks. Whispering into their ears as sweat moistened the back of his white linen shirt. Their eyes would light up every time. Was it the same line he used on all of them? I thought of doing the same, of being like him. In those two weeks, I saw five women that he brought back to our room. Plus one that came back three nights in a row. Six in total. 

He always thought I was asleep, but I never was. I wanted to know which women fell for his charm. They all knew about me. Part of dad’s appeal was his kid, so he never failed to point me out from where he was entertaining at the bar. “Hey, Boyo, give me a big wave,” he’d shout. When he came back with them at night, he would rush to turn on the shower and usher the chosen one to the bathroom. They would disappear in there for an hour or two. Sometimes, there would be a sudden burst of laughter, but mostly I could hear how deep and raw these women could feel. They would always leave that night, but often he wouldn’t come out, and in the morning, I’d find him sound asleep in the tub. I’d pee as quietly as possible. 

Three-nights-in-a-row’s name was Heather. I heard him yell it out twice the last time they had sex. When she exited the bathroom, she had a towel wrapped tightly around her blonde hair and another loosely around her body, one of her breasts exposed. She caught me peeking and held eye contact as she dressed. She did have something behind her eyes, but not what my father saw. On the way out, she kissed me where my mouth meets my cheek. I never told Dad. For the two weeks I watched him, I thought about mom and how the other dads buzzing around the Disney glue trap must also be the other halves of failing marriages. 

When I got back to Ottawa, I dropped my bags at the door and ran to my mother to hug her deeply. Maybe if I could hold her hard enough, she could feel Florida, because I was never going to tell her. 



I lie with Marcia on my side, perfectly still. I want to be with her. I want to be one of her rules. I tell her about Florida, and Heather. How I still picture her breast sometimes, dewy in that Florida heat. And I tell her about my father, that in all his glory, maybe he just wanted to be held. We lie quiet for a moment, but before the comfortable silence can set in, she suggests I see a therapist. To unpack all my issues, she giggles. 

When things end with Marcia, I call Shelly. In many confused words, I tell her to bring the scalpel. I tell her I need the small moments now, not to bully through them anymore. I beg her to try them with me. I tell her they are an acquired taste. When she arrives, she can see that there’s not much left in me. I show her where it hurts, but before she cuts in, she gently draws a circle with her fingers, tracing her scalpel line. She then puts her ear to my chest and listens for a bit, quietly, without moving her lips.

 

 

 

 

 

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Portrait of Sacha Bissonnette

Sacha Bissonnette is a short story writer from Ottawa, Canada. He is a reader for the Wigleaf Top 50 series. He was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2021 and was longlisted for Wigleaf Top 50 2021. His story "Glass Birds" was shortlisted for the Masters Review flash-fiction prize and was a Mythic Picnic short fiction prize finalist. It was nominated by Wigleaf for a 2022 Pushcart Prize. He recently placed third in the 2022 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary competition. His work has appeared in Wigleaf, Lunch Ticket, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Cease, Cows, among other places. He has upcoming short fiction in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, BULL, and Terrain.org. He is currently working on a short fiction anthology with the help of a National Canada Council for the Arts grant, an Ontario Arts Grant, and a Youth In Culture Ottawa Grant, and was recently selected for the Writer's Union of Canada - BIPOC Writer's Connect mentorship. He loves film and comfort food and tweets @sjohnb9



1 Response

Mary
Mary

September 18, 2022

This is beautiful, original, and deeply felt. Keep writing, you have a fabulous future.

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