They sat me down and so it started. I had just woken up from a dream that was all too real, yet which I don’t remember. Either way, I was still caught up in the vibe and my eyes hadn’t yet fully returned to their sharp edge of focus. It was just the three of them; my father, my mother and her eldest brother, my bald headed uncle. “Come sit down,” said my father and my mother smiled and the bald man reached for his cigarettes as he downed the rest of his tea.
“You should have breakfast,” she said and I refused with the shaking of my head.
“It’s too late now,” said my father and continued instantly, “Might as well wait to have lunch.” I nodded my head gently in agreement and tried to keep hidden the primitive yawn within me.
“You went to sleep late,” my uncle said.
“I would have too, if I’d been on the phone for three hours,” said my father. I smiled in agreement but said nothing. “So,” he said, “you must’ve had a very interesting conversation.”
“Paul, please,” she said and my father turned to her and she made a face that said, “Take it easy,” or something of the sort.
“What?” he said. “I just want to know what it was that really kept him awake. It must’ve have been one hell of a conversation, right John?” I still said nothing and my hollow smile faded away ever so quickly and my eyes fell to the floor. “Well John?”
“Well what?” I replied, clearing my throat.
“How is she?”
“What were you talking about last night?”
I threw a glance at my uncle and mother, and I knew that their silence belonged to that moment alone. They were most likely singing their brains out before I came out of my room. The head speaker is always Paul; the man behind every item in the house, the man who lives life within the realm of reason and thought and cherishes whatever happens to make money or energy. Yes, my father. He’s the chairman at our family conferences; brilliant man altogether, really.
“Well John, what were you and her talking about?”
My mother’s eyes were half open and she kept shaking her head while her hands were locked together on her lap. “We were talking about you.” My smile came back, although it was no longer of the same kind; it was still a smile nevertheless. My words made him lean back and he let out a sigh as he began to play along.
“Talking about me,” he said. “What did she have to say?”
“Nothing much,” I replied instantly. “She said nothing.”
“You were on the phone all night long and she said nothing?”
“Nothing about you,” I said and continued, “We were trying to talk with silence.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” he said and the look I had provoked within his eyes reminded me of a couple of years back and my imprisonment.
“We only want to help you John,” she said. “There are lots of girls out there, girls that come from respectable families, girls with jobs and responsibilities that are well mannered and…”
“Ok hold on,” I interrupted, “Is she, what this is all about? You’re heavily mistaken. You think I’m in love with her? That’s absurd.”
“I told you,” said my uncle as he put out his cigarette. My father looked over at him quickly and turned back to me as I let out an abrupt laugh.
“I still have a lot of questions John.” I shrugged my shoulders and raised my hands and tilted my neck, all so rhythmically, trying desperately to keep my smile where it was. “I still have a lot of questions,” repeated Paul. “For example, what advantages does this relationship offer you? You can’t see this person or be with her physically, because she is half way across the world. It’s fair to say that neither of you see anything from one another’s daily life nor do you know anything about each other, except for your voices.” He paused for a moment, as if devouring the silence in between my mother and uncle with pleasure and continued, “It’s merely nothing but a long distance and expensive relationship built on nothing but words. I’ve been trying to figure it out for a while now John. As an old man who attempts to be extremely modern, I have tried and tried to understand your way of thinking and I feel that I’ve failed. There’s no doubt that I could’ve succeeded, similar to every other challenge in my life. There’s no help from you. You shut every door there is and close your eyes on everybody around you. Well I’m damn tired! You hear me? Stop looking at the ground!”
I looked up at him, but only for a split second and my eyes flew over to the silent brother and sister that were sitting next to each other; my mother with her hands still locked together smiled depressingly and my uncle was running his hand back and forth on the few hairs upon his head. “So,” I said, “how long were you guys at it?”
“Don’t get smart with me John.”
“I was talking to the silent crowd.”
“We’re worried for…”
“Who the hell do you think you are? Huh? I’ll tell you. You’re nobody, nothing; a lazy sac of crap with nothing to show. You want to know why? It’s because you haven’t done shit!”
“Paul Please,” my mother interrupted.
“Hold on,” he said, stretching his arm out towards her with his index finger raised. “I just want to know; at what point in time did you get the idea that you were such an important being? That’s all I want to know. When did you get such an absurd thought in your tiny hollow brain?”
“Paul, you promised,” she said and added, “John, sweetheart, we want the best for you. Don’t take your father’s words to heart. We’ve all been very worried and we all love you so very much.”
I turned my head towards her again, this time slowly. She smiled and there was somewhat of a glitter inside her eyes. “I think it’s best if you just stay silent,” I said, scratching my head with my right hand while my left was inside my pants pocket pricking the side of my leg. “You sound like some mother in a soap opera. I’m not a goddamn drug addict for god sake!”
“Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad,” said Paul and I heard my uncle sigh and his hand was still running on top of his head. For some reason, I couldn’t curse. It wasn’t at all out of respect. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so instead I turned back to look at my father and squinted my eyes and as I turned away I kissed my teeth and shook my head. ‘The game’s over,’ I thought. “Give me your cell phone,” he said.
“Paul, I don’t think that’s necessary,” said my mother.
“If it was up to you, nothing would be necessary. Give me your phone.” I smiled as I got up, finally finding it in me to look him directly in the eyes and stare. “Keep smiling,” he said, “Keep smiling you selfish piece of crap! What the hell is the matter with you?”
“There wasn’t any matter until I woke up.”
“You didn’t wake up!” he shouted. “I’ve been trying to wake you up. You’ve been drowning and I’ve been trying to pull you out. I wouldn’t be making jokes if I were you, Mr. Knowitall!”
I walked away and into my room. My cell phone was on my desk, on top of a copy of “The Clown” by Heinrich Boll. I saw my cigarettes and I swear they winked at me and assured me that everything would fall again. I smiled as I came back out into the living room and handed Paul my phone. He grabbed it and tossed it impartially to his side. “I’m not going to pay for you to talk on the phone anymore. Matter of fact I’m not going to pay for you to do anything and quite frankly, I’m not going to give a crap what you do and how you live. Those days are over John. Nobody is going to want anything from you anymore, especially me. Nothing whatsoever,” he exclaimed, making the last two words and the point clear with his hands raised towards me.
“Are we done?”
“You’re never going to care are you?”
“I only care for this to be done.”
“You’re always going to be so selfish, aren’t you?
The truth is, I’d seen much worse in the past and a whole lot more was yet to come. But when I came back into my room, I swear to god, my cigarettes told me that everything would fall again and that ultimately, nothing ever really mattered.