By: Conan Helsley
The cab stops in front of their house and I sit there wondering how I'll tell them. It's been difficult lately, ever since I had that outburst at Emily's wedding. They thought I was drunk, so I let them think that, it was easier than having the real conversation, easier than dealing with what was actually going on in my life. I laugh, and the cabbie kind of glances but goes right back to his phone. My laugh has been a bit startling of late. Sometimes I can't keep it under control. I fancy it something like the Joker, but that's probably just a bit of romanticism.
I haven't been here in months. My mother and father were never the oppressive types, but at a certain point even the most liberal of parents reach their limit, and lately I've really pushed the bounds of their acceptance. Two months ago I was arrested for indecent exposure and public intox when I climbed onto the roof of my apartment building naked and pretended I was a bird flapping it's wings before flight. What no one knew is that I wasn't drunk, and I wasn't imitating a bird. In point of fact, I thought I was a bird, and I had every intention of flying.
The cabbie honks and I tell him to hold on, I'm not quite ready. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready. Towalk up to that house and explain that what's happening was always going to happen. To try to make sense of something I don't understand myself. I have always lived my life like I had nothing to live for, because I genuinely believed I didn't, not in any meaningful sort of way. Life should be enjoyable. What was the point if all you did was work and pay bills? I watched my father leave each day and return every evening only to eat dinner and retire for the night. On the weekends he would try to do things with me, but mostly he was too exhausted to make much of an effort. I always loved my father, but I grew to resent him as well, and eventually that became a wall between us. For a while my mother and I had a good relationship, but then I found girls and she felt I was leaving her behind and I called
her an overbearing bitch and the wedge that fell between us that day was too large for either one of us to move. Not that we made much of an effort, but the point remains.
Now, sitting here in this cab, I wish more than anything that I had. They're all I have now that Chloe has left, which I certainly never expected, but of course I haven't been the best to her. I've kind oflost my mind in the last six months, and considering her in my actions hasn't been much of a priority. Of course I know now that what made sense before isn't what makes sense now and vice versa. My
wires got crossed somewhere along the way, and even though I can recognize my recklessness, controlling myself in those instances has become more than difficult.
I look up at the house I was raised in. The house my parents hoped to one day leave to me or mychildren. Children that I never had nor wanted. I can just see my mother, wailing about how it can't be, I'm only a kid so they must have made a mistake because it just can't be. I know my father well enough to know that he will retreat to his easy chair and accept the news without argument. These things are as vivid and as real as the birds and the stench I cannot seem ever to escape.
The cabbie honks again and I slam my fist against the partition. “Alright, just gimme a minute. I'll tip you massively, huh? Biggest tip you ever got in your filthy fuckin life but just gimme a few.” He only glances at the house and goes back to his phone. I wonder if he'd be so impatient if he knew I could go around to his window and jam my fingers into his eyes, maybe sink my teeth into his neck and tear out his god-damn throat. A few more days andI just might, but at the moment I need to think of a way to tell them. It would be so satisfying, to watch as he realizes that his insignificant life has come to an end in this boring yellow sedan. So many people think their time is so much more important than the next person's, when in fact in the grand scheme not a single person was actually valuable at all. Everyone had the potential to be, but in the world created by technology nothing would ever be more important than the subservience of the human being. There was no place in the world for an open mind or a free spirit. If you weren't with the program, you had nobusiness existing in it.
I need to get back to the task at hand, but every time I try, something else comes to mind, some irritation or vexing issue or injustice I will never be able to do anything about. I have gone my entire life so unconcerned I never even realized that if I had tried there were things I could have done to makesomething better for someone somewhere. My life could have been meaningful. It could have mattered. I had opportunities most others don't, but like most in my situation I chose to be sullen about the very things that had afforded me my fortunate life. I had responsibilities to the people around me, the citizens in my community, the inhabitants of this world. Maybe that's why I'm here now, mulling over a conversation I can't seem to have nor even make sense of in my mind. My thoughts are so scattered andso sporadic. So angry and so unsettling. So vivid and so confusing.
My mother steps out and down the walk toward the cab. Her eyes are red, so they must have been arguing again. Always arguing. About me most likely, because I'm the only real point of contention between them. He feels I'm an adult and should be treated as such, whether they agree with
my choices or don't. Raising a child isn't about recreating yourself, it's about teaching them to be a new person, better and more conscientious. If they took to it, they took to it, if they didn't then you had to be there for them and try to help them through it. She has never felt that I should be allowed to make my decisions. She wanted a certain life for me, one she felt was right and decent and would make me happy. She never understood that we were different people. I was never misguided, I was simply myself, no matter how detrimental to her health that was.
I reach for the door, wondering where she's headed and how I will get her to stay without tellingher right here and now. I need to say it to both of them together, because once it's out I'm not sure I'll beable to say it again. She opens it before I can get hold of the handle and slides in.
“Blackwell Funeral Home,” she says. It's like she doesn't even see me.
“Mom, what happened?”
She just sits there, tears streaking her face.
“Don't ignore me, Mom. Fuck. Is it Dad?”
She glances at me, but only just.
“Don't do that, Mom. Tell me!”
She runs her fingers up her arm. “Get it together, Janie.”
I grab her wrist but can't feel her.
The cabbie pulls away and –
The cab stops in front of their house and I sit there wondering how I'll tell them. I have a tumor, you see...