As I stood up, I knew they wouldn't understand.
My biggest problem with my family is our conversation, seldom intellectual, mostly at the level of hormonal teenage boys. The pinnacle of our conversation was a history of family abuse, but talk hovered around various addictions, alcohol or otherwise.
When my cousin started making obscene gestures and the conversation moved to his anatomy, I abruptly excused myself from the table. As I stood up, I knew they wouldn't understand. My need for intellectual stimulation, or at least humor on a decent or witty level, is a weakness, a fault of mine, a genetic defect.
"Why are you mad," asked the room?
Was I mad? My friends make disgusting comments everyday. I laugh. I join in. I don't know. Hypocrisy is the lens through which I live my life.
"I'm not mad," I literally responded, "but when the conversation turns to topic I'm uncomfortable with I have the right to excuse myself ... (they stared at me with a look I have ingrained in my consciousness, a piercing gaze of pity and indignation, as if shouting are you too good for us? morally superior to our conversation, your family conversation? you're not better than us, you know) ... and I won't be made to feel bad about it."
And I immediately felt bad about it.
I suppose my melancholy attitude began at 4 a.m. when my grandmother woke up, wailing. There is hardly a day, an hour when she's not crying. Though few, those hours always seem to be during the day, never at night when I need the rest. I even tried sleeping upstairs in the guest room, door closed and radio on. Her agony permeates the walls and fills every crevice with intensity.
Blame is never something I attribute to my grandmother. Whether physical or mental disability, her pain is as real to her as her screams are to me. Her face, eroded and marked by years of incalculable suffering--chiseled tear canals washing away any remnants of happiness or simple memories even of a time when walking was not a task--is a haunting yet blatant imagine of a woman with little hope whose reason to live at any given moment is that she might not rise the next morning. The pleading in her eyes, the look of resignation and longing is another I will never forget.
"Fuck Christmas," she said, her hands, rubbing vigorously up and down her thighs and upper calves, struggling to relieve even a fraction of the pain.
At the time, before we left for the party, I didn't want to believe her. Want is a difficult concept.
"Are you sure you're doing it right," asked my mother, again, as I struggled to fill the quickly deflating tire with air? I confirmed that, indeed, I was a male of above average intelligence and, after several occasions at school during which I had to fill the same time with air, I was capable of completing the task given reliable equipment.
"Are you pressing hard enough," ask my mother, again? Despite wanting strangle her with the chord, I settled for a curt reply of, "yes."
I had already given up on this particular air compressor. It was probably broken after years of neglect and, as a result, the device let out more air than it pumped. The tire, as one can imagine, was flatter than when I started.
"We should try again somewhere else," my mother semi-yelled, again. And you should try not talking to me like I'm a bronze medalist in the Special Olympics*** I thought as I drove the van to the gas station next door and successfully filled the tire.
Previous to the tire affair, my mother asked her boyfriend to put air in the tire since I pumped and paid for the gas. After several seconds of silence and a blank stare, I opened my door to fill the tire, no protest from the rest of the vehicle, of course.
During the tire affair, my mother rolled down her window. As anyone who regularly rides with me at school now knows, the passenger window, when rolled down, does not roll back up without coaxing, a bribe and a swift kick to the face i.e. slamming the door. We parked on the 57 north ramp, desperately trying to fix the window. I informed the passengers that normally the car needed "time off" before the window would cooperate. Alas, my mother insisted that we leave immediately, her coat acting as a makeshift window.
Cold and loud. The ride. Was.
In less than twelve hours I was turning 21, the magic age. Apparently, this is not old enough to know what I'm talking about or how to take care of a vehicle that I drive or ride in on a daily basis. Apparently, it also not old enough to decide in which conversations I want to partake. Apparently, I'm just mad all the time.
My mother kept trying to ask me various window related questions in the car, but the rushing wind carried her voice into the desolate fields. Finally, I shouted, again in a curt manner, "Don't try. I can't hear you anyway," the same response, or so it seems, I get from the entirety of my family whenever I open my mouth to speak instead of talk.
After the vehicle sat peacefully at my aunt's house, the windows complied with the next start.
I almost cried.
*** - This was honestly my first thought. I know that if God exists, I will burn in hell. I've come to terms with this fact.
I can legally store my consciousness in a Budweiser.
At sixteen I became independent by means of transportation. At eighteen I could die for my country. At 21 I can legally destroy my liver.
A recent day dream:
Oh...hello. I didn't think you'd answer at this time...I was just going to leave a message.
I'll hang up then.
No...no. *heh* ...really it was just my excuse in case you answered. ... I feel like an idiot...
*sigh* I had an interesting day and I just wanted...needed, rather, to hear your voice...even a recording. I'm sorry if that's weird.
...No, I'm not. Fuck you.
...That's what I thought.
interrupted by more questions about college