Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Autopilot

Is this how all marriages end up? Is this how a forty-year marriage looks like? Husband and wife yelling, arguing over the wrong brand dish detergent? As I watched my parents heatedly argue, I wondered how they manage to keep it up for so long. I would've bust a vein.

Even as they traded barbs, they were already preoccupied with something else. My father was sitting on the cracked faux leather couch reading the evening paper, mother at the dinner table eating and peeling shrimp. From the detergent, they moved on to other inconsequential topics: the peeling wallpaper, the stock market, my haircut. The fight was on autopilot.

I kept my head down as missiles flew overhead, it's only my second day here and I am back in the warzone like I never left. I steadily ate my dinner in silence, hoping to get out of the way as soon as possible. One word would engage me in the war, I'd have to choose sides; there is no Switzerland here. That would only bring about the wrath of both parents.

My father asked me a direct question. There was no avoiding it, congress can't save me now--except--possibly if I deploy the Nuclear Option: I could fart. However, I didn't think I could muster enough sulphur to summon one, so I belched loudly instead.

That distracted them, thank God.

I am almost positive that my parents didn't always argue like this, but I can't summon those memories. I thought hard, directing all my concentration on it, as if I were trying to pass a kidney stone. But I'm failing. It must be stored in a part of my brain that's been sealed off, blocking traumatic memories of the time when I wore espadrilles.

All I remember is that I hated the dinner table because it was like a prison cell and a clean plate, my only parole. Consequently, I can eat a plate of roast pork, mashed potatoes and a side of green beans in two minutes flat. I leave the dinner table, my mouth still chewing, full and bloated, a puffer fish warding off its enemies.

Comparatively, this tiff was a minor blip on the screen, a pebble on the road--it won't even last the weekend. It's not even close to being in the Top Ten Soap Operatic Moments of my life. There were no knives drawn; just a papercut with a twist of lemon.

I remember that night with the knife.

In a lull in their argument, my mother asked me how the stir-fried noodles were. Fine, I said curtly.

I was sulking, how mature of me. I refuse to have a conversation in the hundred decibel range. I am here for a ten-day vacation, the least my parents can do was pretend to be some other married couple, like Kirsten and Sandy on The O.C. Surely, they can do that for me?

My parents have been doing this so long, they don't realize it's already taken its toll. You’d think that after moving out fifteen years ago, the hard shell I've grown would be enough to withstand these fights. But my armor is useless here; it melts away like tanning butter, leaving carcinoma. Maybe I am just too soft. Maybe I am just a fag.

Maybe I am just a fucking faggot for fucking feeling like this.

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This is part of a series of posts about my vacation in February of '06 in the Philippines. Read the rest here:

Part 1: The Long Way Home
Part 2: Starvation
Part 3: Fake Plastic Food
Part 4: My Old Room
Part 5: Autopilot
Part 6: Jetlag

Part 7: A Conversation with My Father
Part 8: Archeology
Part 9: A Conversation with My Mother
Part 10: Redeye
Part 11: I Carry Your Heart
Epilogue: Fun with Fake Poop




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