A Kind of Drug
Chapter 5 - Delirium - Part V
I rang the doorbell at my parent’s house and waited for an answer. Eventually, my mom came and pulled open the door.
“Oh my God, sweetie!” she said. “What a surprise!” She took a step forward and gave me a big hug. “And you’re with your brother and Vanessa! Oh my God! Are you two getting married?”
Inadvertently, Vanessa let out a chuckle. Can’t say I blamed her. Even my brother smiled at the hilarious idea of me being engaged. For a moment, he broke away from his angry form and slapped me on the shoulder.
“Yeah, bro. You two getting hitched?” he asked me.
“Fucking asshole,” I said to him.
“Hey, watch your mouth, stoonodd,” my mom said. She always had a tendency to use words that didn’t actually exist while in casual conversation.
“Yeah, whatever, mom,” I said. “Look, can we come inside. Not like the trip here was short or anything.”
“Oh, of course,” she said moving out of the way. “Come in, come in. It’s so good to see you, honey. Let me go get your father and then we can all catch up.”
“Grand,” I said dryly. Vanessa reached out and caressed the back of my neck. I took a deep breath. “Thanks, punkin.”
“Of course, baby.” Vanessa smiled.
So, sitting in the living room, all of us completely uncomfortable, my drunken mind just decided: ‘Out with it.’
“Mom, dad,” I began. “I know what’s been going on. The Book Clubs and everything. That’s really why we’re here. So, why don’t you just tell us what’s happening?”
My brother gave me a look like I had just buttfucked his cat. Whatever. I didn’t really care. I had just wanted to get past all the bullshit as soon as humanly possible.
“What do you know about the Book Clubs?” my dad asked calmly.
“Not a lot…” my brother began, but then trailed off.
“Just what we’ve seen on the news,” I said, picking up where he left off. I tried to be diplomatic. Of course, I was also a huge fuck up. “People who use Words together to feel more comfortable and shit.”
“Hey, watch your mouth,” my mom said.
“Really?” I asked. “That’s the big concern right now? My use of the word ‘shit’? Really?”
“Well….still,” she said, uncomfortably. “It isn’t nice.”
“Look,” I said. “This is simple: Why? Aaron quit. He said you wanted to quit, too. He even asked you to. So what the hell?”
My parents looked at each other. Their expressions were a bizarre mixture of confusion and lucidity; mutual understanding and childish shame.
“We tried,” my father said, still looking at my mother. “But we weren’t strong like your brother.”
“Oh, cut it out,” I said. “Don’t do that bullshit where you tell us how amazing we are just to let your shit mistakes slide.”
“Hey!” my father barked. “You need to cut it out. Do you wanna talk about this or do you wanna just be an asshole?”
I started to open my mouth but then I felt Vanessa’s fingertips brush my lower back. I thought about what I was about to say and then realized she was right. Nothing good would’ve come from what I wanted to say. Before I even said it, she knew better. As I hung my head down, she lightly used her fingernails to scratch my back one last time before backing away. It was all she had to say.
“You’re right, dad,” I said. “Sorry.” Then I took a deep breath to clear my head. I looked back up at my parents. “But still, can we try to keep the posturing to a minimum? Please? Just tell us what happened? Nothing more, nothing less?”
“Oh, honey, it was just so hard,” my mom began as tears filled her eyes.
Oh, for fuck’s sake, I thought. I closed my eyes and sighed. No, she was not going to just tell me what happened.
Luckily, my father placed a hand on my mother’s arm and spoke for her.
“Do we have a good excuse as to how we’ve behaved? No. Should we have tried harder to stop ourselves in the past? Maybe. Is there something we can still do for our future? Honestly, I don’t believe so. This is who we are now. Your mother and I are very happy this way and we’ve talked about it. We don’t want to quit. Lust and Hilarity have become part of our lives. And we hope you and your brother can accept this.”
Silence followed. A shitload of silence. A mountainous, deafening, third-tier level of silence.
And nothing would surprise me more than the sound that finally broke that silence.
“You’re truly happy?” Vanessa asked. “Truly?” I looked at her with wide, crazed eyes. I couldn’t believe the alcohol we had consumed on the airplane still had such a ridiculous hold on her. That she’d not only butt into the conversation like that, but take their side on top of it.
“We are,” my mother said softly.
“Even if Addiction meant your own children would never speak to you again?”
Suddenly, I realized what she had done. By interrupting our rather intense conversation, Vanessa did what I did when we all first sat down: She got to the fucking point. She knew what I wanted to say and what I wanted to ask, but knew that there was no easy way for me to get there. So by asking this question early on, she bypassed hours of scarring words and screaming matches between me, my brother, and my parents.
Of course, that didn’t exactly make her question all that less terrifying. In my drunken and emotional daze, I reached out held her hand like it was my last tether to reality.
I turned back around and looked at my mother. Her next word made my heart all but stop completely.
“Maybe,” she whispered.
I tried to speak, but my voice became caught in my throat.
“What?” my brother said for me.
My mother began to cry. Again, my father spoke for her. “You need to accept us for who we are. Just as we’ve always accepted the two of you for who you are; now you need to do the same. We never once asked you to change your majors in college or to not get tattoos or said that we hated your girlfriends. We let you be the beautiful, wonderful people that you’ve become. And we’re so proud of you both and we love you so much. We wouldn’t change a single part of you. All we ask is that you do the same for us.”
My brother, tears in his eyes, leapt off his chair and into my parents’ arms. “You’re right,” he said. “I love you both no matter what. We’ll figure it out. One way or another.”
“Maybe,” I said aloud. It was the only word that I had actually heard. For me, father’s entire discourse had gone mostly unnoticed.
“What?” my father asked. He looked up from the group hug he was currently engaged in with my brother and mother.
“Maybe.” I said it again, confused. I tried to make more sense of it. I rolled the word ‘maybe’ over and over in my mouth trying to see if it was a real word; if it was even a real concept. It seemed impossible to comprehend.
Words, I soon realized. Over your own child. Was this what they really did? Was this now reality?
Hundreds of millions of years of evolution. All creating maternal instinct and unconditional love. Nurturing one’s own offspring so that the genetic line of the species might continue. It was this that separated man from beast. No, wait. Even beasts nurtured and protected their young. This was further down the evolutionary chain. This was what separated beasts from fucking cephalopods. Mammals from plankton. Was this what Words did? Brought us five hundred million years back down the evolutionary ladder? In just one glance?
I shuddered but didn’t say another word. Without knowing what else to do, I just turned my thoughts off. I picked up my bag, stood up, and walked toward the door. All three of my family members cried out for me. The word ‘sorry’ was tossed around liberally. I heard the word ‘love’ a dozen or so times. I think ‘forgiveness’ was also a popular topic.
I digested none of it. I was already gone. ‘Maybe’ was the only word that rang in my head. I walked out the door, closed it gently behind me, and kept walking down the street. Of course, my parents followed me out the door, but only a step or two. They didn’t even make it to the end of the driveway.
Vanessa had predicted something that I had been too blind to see. That my parents had already chosen their addiction over me. She then told me how she grabbed her bag, nervously said she was sorry, and then ran down the street after me. Once Vanessa caught up to me, she sat with me for a half an hour as a I cried, screamed, and attempted to uproot a bus bench about six blocks from my parents house.
Eventually, Vanessa called one of her friends to come pick us up. I spent the rest of the weekend getting hammered in the comforting umbrella of old friends. That was also the weekend I told Vanessa that I loved her for the first time. She said it back and we ended up having drunken sex on our friend’s balcony later that night.
It was the single most confusing weekend of my life.
Of course, I never imagined that it would also be the last time that I’d see my parents alive.
© J.E. Tobal 2011