My dad got me drunk when I was fourteen, not too long after my birthday, and I have a scar on my forehead as a result. He and my mother had, at that time, been divorced for maybe three years. The reason for the divorce was his incorrigible womanizing, or unfaithfulness, and this gave him a certain illicit glamour in my eyes.
        That night he took me out to eat with him at a Chinese restaurant called Hung Far Low, which was located in a bad part of downtown Portland, before the rebuilding and gentrification. You had to go upstairs to find the restaurant, and I liked the atmosphere there. My father, who had a certain charisma, with his slicked-back Brylcreem hair, wisecracking and cocky, flirted with waitresses everywhere, just by his manner, he would seem to presuppose that there was some interesting unanswered question in the air. That night for a reason I've forgotten he wanted me to taste alcohol. It was sort of a joke. The waitress went along.
        When asked what I wanted to drink, I very coolly said, "A margarita," and just this, my choice, the fact that I had a ready choice, amused my father and the waitress no end. The margarita tasted wonderful to me. I hid my pleasure, absorbed in acting as if I did this all the time. I think I had four of them before we left. I have no idea how much bourbon my father put away.
        Out in the car, we were conspiratorially pleased with the situation, and whatever we said to each other seemed very funny at the time. As he drove me home, however, a change came over him, and my father sped up, really flooring it along a straight stretch on Stark Street, turning to say to me, with a mean smile, "Want me to slow down? Am I going too fast?" I wouldn't reply to him, and I was angry at the stupid attempt to scare me. He kept asking me if I wanted him to slow down and although I put my hands against the dash I wouldn't give in, I wouldn't say a word. I was furious, and he was in turn furious with me. Nothing I did was ever enough to prove myself to him. He was competitive, and if for instance I grew taller than him and was a more natural, easier star at sports than he had ever been, back in North Dakota – why, then the arena of endeavor would be changed, and we would move on to whether I was tough enough in fights, if I was a man who could defend himself, or if I was a good worker willing to start at the bottom, etcetera. He hated me, I thought, and I was enraged at this – though I worshipped him, in some ways.
        He couldn't stop the car in time. He slammed on the brakes, but the vehicle in front of us loomed up, I knew we weren't going to make it, just some dark car stopped at a red light, waiting for us.
        I don't recall the actual impact, though later on I would have bad dreams about it that would jerk me awake. The next thing I knew, my father was looking at me with the dumbest fucking look on his face, blood on his forehead and chin.
        "What happened, Joe? What happened?"
        It was like a bad actor pretending to be drunk, and I despised him. I glanced up where my own head had met the windshield: there was a round, shattery hole. Blood was collecting in my lap. I realized my head had caused the hole. Some people had come out of their houses. Absurdly, someone told me to put my head between my knees. I was calm and composed. I had no fear. I was glad to see the policeman, professionally passing through my field of vision, in no hurry, no emotion whatsoever visible on his face. An ambulance came and took me away. I asked the attendant in back how many stitches he thought I would have.
        Three years later, at seventeen, I was having dinner with my father out in deep Southeast Portland, at a restaurant he favored named Jimmy's Hut. The waitresses liked him here too, and for a while now they would let me accompany him into the back, into the bar. We would eat in there. I was not invited to drink, and I didn't care. I never thought of it.
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