Mace. I’m building up a tolerance…

It was cold. I remember that most of all. We hurried outside of my grandparents house, forced out by my grandfather’s rage. Papa. Papa enjoyed Jim Beam the way some people enjoy coffee. He was such a nice and sweet man when he was sober, but he was a mean drunk. His mood would easily turn as bitter and sharp as the alcohol he was consuming.

I don’t remember what caused it. I only partially remember the screaming. My grandmother was yelling at my grandfather. One moment we were in the house and the next we were outside rushing towards the car. The wind was blowing. Cool air infused with so much moisture that it almost made your face wet. Then I felt it. My face and eyes were suddenly hot. My throat was constricted. It felt like I had held my face briefly in a bowl of jalepeno juice.

My sisters and I were quickly packed in the backseat. We started crying. A mixture of confusion and pain and fear coursed through my body. I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening until my mom said that my grandmother had maced my grandfather.

The feeling of what the mace felt like was never completely forgotten, but it was brought back in full color, restored in crystal clarity at Alan Meadows reception last Saturday night.

A group of us larger guys were asked to escort a drunk man from the reception. We were told that he might be unruly, but he wasn’t. He walked himself outside and left without a fight. As soon as we got outside the five of us started coughing. Someone said, “Did someone just spray pepper spray out here?” My face was on fire. My lips were burning. Every sensitive membrane on my face felt like it had been spritzed with acid. Then I remembered Papa. I remembered that cold day. I remembered the smell of Jim Beam and my grandmother screaming.

Apparently an undercover officer maced a homeless person around the corner and so the residual mace in the air affected anyone in the vicinity.

One thing about mace is that it never comes packaged with good memories and I am finding that neither does alcohol. I don’t plan on building up a tolerance for either, but I am starting to build up a tolerance for mace.

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