Saturday, 17 September 2016

Family vacation

I tried to envision the point of view of others, re-framing things from their perspective : a new poster on the wall; a magazine on my bedside table, small things that I believed remarkable enough to elicit a response. Like a dog or a cat sniffing the air, I would gauge their impressions once they left the room. Sometimes on the pink leather coach, just a stretch away from the television, I'd wonder what they were thinking as if somehow I was complicit in what I was watching. Everything outside my line of view would fade soon enough, however. A nonresponsive chuckle;  a dismissive smile, a “goodnight” in fragmented unison - would send him on his way again. I'd sit up watching even after the doors were locked and lights turned off.

At Sunday school the excitement of “The paranormal” that was on the night before would not let us be quiet, the teacher would have to wait till the unholy things were spilled from our busy mouths before his lesson could begin. In class on Mondays too we would  discuss what we had seen: a mini-series about a wife beater, traces of blood glowing in the dark by luminal. A girl towards the back of the class said her dad watched blue movies at night. I had my own first glimps of that while skipping through the channels in the spare room at Zelda, my dad's girlfriend house. The video channel showed whatever played downstairs on the VHS player in the self-contained living quarter where my stepbrother would sleep on some weekends when he stayed over. The colors on the screen were lurid, the skin tones unnaturally warm; a man in a white vest with dark greased back hair was penetrating a slender woman. His dick seemed to me to miraculously contract and expand as his shaft slid back and forth inside her.

Zelda's previous partner shot himself in the bathroom that I shared with my step-sister, Michelle. She had an impressive collection of perfume bottles; luminous colorful soaps, some still in plastic wrappers, and a wide variety of mini shampoos and conditioners which were either sealed or in various conditions of use. I used the ones that were already open. Most of the plastic bottles proclaimed to be from Paris, but a few were from hotels, I felt less bad using those, but they didn’t smell as good.

The first time Zelda's sister came over for a BBQ she brought her two boys with. I mistook  a bowl of dark olives for chocolates and took a bitter handful. I refilled the women's tall wine glasses, half way with ice as requested. After lunch I overheard them talking about an incident involving a ghost on the stairs. My dad, they said had been terrified. When the guests had left in the late afternoon and everyone else had retired to their rooms I sat in silence in a deckchair with the black house cat in my lap.

The foyer of her parent's house was grand. Studio portraits of each family member hung against a feature wall. My stepbrother was handsome even as a mischievous grinning first grader. Zelda had told me that her father's wife was not her mother, her mom had died some years ago. The blond woman who welcomed us was slender, confident and precise in her posture. She spoke through a rigorous smile, her voice all “a's” and “o's;” frequently chuckling and yawping, with a laugh that made me feel silly. She led us into the peopled dining hall and to our seats among middle-aged strangers. I got introduced to her adopted son, a man in his late thirties with a brusque manner that almost concealed his mental disability. The table seemed to stretch the entire length of the room. Waiting staff  laid bowls of soup in front of us. An elderly man fussed with a napkin in my lap. After dinner, I watched TV alone in a small open room upstairs with a locked gate to a balcony.

Soon after meeting Zelda's parents we went on a family vacation. I hadn’t seen the sea before and the idea of its vastness was cause for me to wonder. Zelda wore a pair of white thick framed round sunglasses, and in a black full piece swimsuit that matched her dark copper hair, she read a thick paperback crime novel. My dad who was proud of wearing a Speedo resented her reading, had made a big display of them rubbing lotion on each other. He lived for simple things like the meticulous packing and unpacking of a picnic basket. “Why don’t you explore the hiking route?” one of them must have suggested.

On the way up the concrete steps that lead to where a sandy trail began up the hill, a gray haired middle aged man on his way down insisted on accompanying me. “I'll walk with you,” he said matter of factly. When we reached the wooded area he steered us off the main trail through the brush and into an area of densely populated trees. “I’m divorced,” he told me. We stood among the brittle orange and dark brown leaves on the black ground, surrounded by branches. In the distance further up the hill, we heard male voices, two or three guys maybe and a female among them laughing occasionally. “They're probably fucking her,“ the man said looking at me, fondling himself. “You get hard often?” He had his dick out and had started jerking off.  “Do you jerk off a lot?” he asked me. “Want to jerk off with me?”

In the car on our way home my stepsister challenged us to her version of an old car game. The first person to spot a white Audi could punch the other passengers and got to call out the next car. I looked at the drivers and passengers inside white Toyota's, beat up blue and maroon Ford's. To the passing trucks, I sang: “So long Man.”

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