Tuesday, October 7, 2014

An Understood Rule


You lie in bed in all of your fifteenishness, arms akimbo, your stomach growling for breakfast on Saturday.  Your parents are out on the breakfast date they’ve been on since 1956.  You heard them leave. You pull the remnants of your own last night—a purple truck and purple drink and your own purple blanket—together around you, and go downstairs to make food.

You can make anything you want and this is an understood rule of the house, as long as you clean up after yourself and do the other things on the list. 

The first thing you do is look for eggs.

Your ability to turn eggs into meals as a sub-adult is quickly laughed off and then marketed by Eggo.  You have never felt more under-appreciated.  You feel the same way when you make chef salad from everything in the refrigerator and suddenly all restaurants country-wide are offering chef salads.

Your story is an old story before you even knew the story existed.

*

Thirty years later and two thousand miles away, you wake up in the morning.  You are still lying in bed in all your fiftyishness, arms akimbo, your stomach still growling for Saturday breakfast.  Your parents are still out on a date.

Suddenly, your entire life as you know it throws itself on the loveseat you use for decoration, and starts crying.  This is the last thing you need.  It’s not like you punished it.  You turn your head away in hopes of seeing other people suffering more, anything to get you off the hook, but your life continues to throw a tantrum in the loveseat.  Stupid baby.

You get yourself comfortable in a propped-up-chin, leg-look way, ready to hear all the stories and everybody’s excuses.  You can’t wait to hear what everybody thinks.  The polls are open.  You feel like you’re in control in a way you haven’t been in in awhile.  You pull your remnants around yourself, this time clean laundry you left on the bed last night and a few cats who have been experimenting with weightlessness.

“Get up,” you say, draping lifeless forms of cats around you. “Gravity still works here.” 

In the apparent absence of gravity—in the face of everything you know that has worked up to this time but which now has suddenly stopped working—you have to do better.  “Who wants to hear a story?” you burble.  Twin peaks of ears funnel towards you.  You clear the throat that was gifted to you from your father, the same throat that runs with the phlegm and can be heard clearing not only itself but entire cathedrals at certain times of the year. 

You suck up any remaining vestiges of the night, hoping that your weightless children can still benefit from a story, and begin, “There are the people who have killed themselves, and there are the people who haven’t.”  You wipe the inside tears off your glasses.  You set your jaw and gather the purple blanket.  “One time with my back against a wall,” you continue, “and no instruments of survival within my reach, I looked to fire as my friend.  I had been taught against it, the same with knives and friendship, but this was a desperate situation.  I looked for a girl but there wasn’t one; I looked for the bridge that I had been told my grandfather built, one particular pile of stones, but I couldn’t find it either.”

It’s a good start, but you don’t know how to end it, plus it’s your dad’s story, not yours.  You look for boys.

“Thirty years ago I didn’t pay attention to my father’s rules of never using a knife in the wrong direction, never setting a fire unless it’s controlled, never leaving a hazard for someone else to walk into, and never going into the woods without blazing a trail first,” you bludgeon.

You shift around in the sheets you haven’t left yet, a bandage on your thumb.




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