Old Spice and Licorice Whips
The inconsistency of my mother's moods was the most difficult part of her illness. I never knew what was going to set her off and I gave up trying to figure her out. In the quieter moments or in the aftermath of a fight, I would lie on my bed and cover my body with stuffed animals, every inch of my skin touching something plushy. The gentle weight of the animals soothed me and created a refuge from the fear and loneliness that haunted me.
On the days she was gone or perched in front of the television, I found the cool, quiet of my father's closet to be a sanctuary from the madness. It was big enough that I could crawl inside and hide, sitting on his tasseled leather shoes, I found comfort in his things. Hangers held white and blue dress shirts, golf shirts, dark slacks with matching suit coats, an assortment of ties and leather belts. His drawers were lined with black gold toe socks, white ankle socks, white cotton handkerchiefs and white Jockey briefs.
I would look through his drawers for the old photos he kept of himself, telling me a story of who he was before I was born. On a shelf, he left a spare tube of original or cherry ChapStick next to an old wooden change bank. If he had coin wrappers, I would wrap his coins for him, hoping when he exchanged them at the bank, I was allowed to keep some of the money.
Each time I made my way through his closet, the uniformity of his things soothed me. I would breathe in the smell of him, a mixture of leather and Old Spice, wishing he would come home soon, so I wouldn’t have to be alone with her.
One time, while hiding in his closet, I found a stack of opened birthday presents in the back corner which included golf figurines, a book of lawyer jokes, and a Herman comic book I didn't understand. After I was done looking through his presents, I began my routine of exploring his stuff. This time, as I reached into his drawer, I felt something new and pulled out a pair of bright, red, stringy underwear. They were licorice flavored and I sat in the closet and ate them.
I don't know if my dad knew how much time I spent in his closet, like the edible underwear, it was something we never talked about.
After my parents divorce, I missed my father and the possibilities his belongings represented. On him I had placed the ideas of protection, rescue, and escape, but the truth was, he was just as scared of her as I was and unable to embody the hero I wanted him to be.