Continued from: Part 3: Meeting Caroline
Later that day at dinner none of us, except for mom, ate much. I found it was hard to put food in my stomach when such a tragedy had befallen on our family. Also, my mother made artichokes for dinner, which not only had those annoying spines, but they also resembled human heads too much and after that comment about my uncle’s brains being tenderly delicious neither Emily and I were willing to touch our artichokes. All my sister had was a soda; I ate even less, but my mother was eating everything in sight especially the baked potatoes with rosemary, which were so aromatic that I couldn’t resist having a bite myself, but my mother ate five and still her appetite was not satiated. I noticed that she often went for the starchy foods; by the end of the meal there were no garlic bread and couscous left. She ate twice as much and after she had finished she had to let out a groan before she was able to stand up. Then, lugging herself to the living room, she sat on the sofa and unbuckled her pants. It was only through experiences like these that I learned what proper behavior for men should be.
After dinner, still with a mostly empty stomach, I tried returning to my room only to find it still locked. This time I pounded my door, so much that it rattled the house. Mom should have been yelling at me and telling me that they could hear my pounding on Rigel 7, but because all those baked potatoes and starchy foods was sitting in her stomach and pinning her to the couch like a stone she couldn’t do anything except to turn on the television with the remote and drown out the sound of my pounding with the sound of The Price is Right.
Using all my strength I pounded at the door and yelled, “Come on, this is my room too, I’m sorry that I touched you earlier, I promise that I will behave more like a gentleman next time. Why won’t you open the door? Are you mad at me? Have you suddenly gone deaf? Did a burglar come in, bound you up with duct tape and gagged you and after clearing my foreign coin collection, which is only worth $1.29, realized that I don’t have much crap which is expensive enough to be worth swiping and left? Come on! Don’t be mean, open the door!”
I pounded the door with so much strength that I bruised a knuckle, at which point my hand became so raw that I couldn’t continue anymore and had to head towards the kitchen to get some ice to nurse my hand. Emily was in the kitchen, oddly enough she was reading a book, something I don’t see her doing often, and I asked her as I was wrapping a dozen ice cubes inside a towel, “What is it that you’re reading, Emily?”
She looked up, the light was at her back and illuminating her face in a strange and eerie fashion, “It’s a book called Invisible Man, I thought it’s a science fiction novel about a man who has discovered a potion that makes him invisible, but instead it turns out to be a novel about a black man who keeps getting screwed over, and not in the good way.”
“Let me take a look at it,” I said, so Emily gave me the book.
I turned over to the first page and discovered words that I didn’t know existed outside of dictionaries, in addition to that the book was impossibly dense; you could shoot a copy of Invisible Man at a tank and by its density and kinetic energy alone could pierce and destroy its sophisticated armor. After three minutes of trying to penetrate the impenetrable verbal armor of the book I gave up, and returned the book to Emily.
“This is stuff that I have to read for summer school, I should have done better in my English class last year so I don’t have to deal with this crap in the summer.”
“Hey, we all have crap to deal with.”
Emily snickered and said, “Like an annoying little brother who bangs the door so loudly that even NASA is getting radio signals from Mars telling Earth to stop that god-dang racket?”
“I had a reason to keep banging on that door; I was locked out of the room by Caroline, that piece of shit, doesn’t she have the manners to open up the door when someone asks her to do so or has she lost so many brain cells during chemotherapy that she’s too retarded to follow simple commands?”
“Did you know that that piece of shit is standing behind you?” Emily asked rhetorically.
I turned around and saw cold piercing eyes staring at me, and attached to those eyeballs was a head, then a slim and short body which I immediately recognized as Caroline. “Don’t worry ’bout me, I’m that piece of shit with so few brain cells that I can’t follow simple commands,” she immediately quipped.
(“Oh my god,” I thought to myself, “she actually can speak and have a sense of humor, so much for my theory that she’s actually a mute robot.”) The kitchen fell silent as Caroline entered, as Emily returned to reading her book and I continued nursing my hand on ice, she walked slowly to the refrigerator and took out a Coca Cola. After closing the refrigerator door she paused, as if reading something attached on the fridge door. But because we only moved in today nothing was attached to the fridge door; she was reading a white, blank door. Either she is a Zen Buddhist or she is insane. Slowly she lifted her right hand in a mechanical fashion, lowered it on top of the coke can she was holding in her right hand, then pulled the tab.
I noticed that all her motions were very synthetic, it seemed that such routine task as getting a soda out of a refrigerator was unnatural to her, and that she had problems sensing where particular parts of her body were. Having opened the can of soda she started opening the drawers, presumably trying to find a glass. “Mom keeps the glasses in the overhead cabinets,” I said, “Emily will get them for you.” Neither Caroline nor I were at that time tall enough to reach the overhead cabinets; having gone through a few growth spurts and puberty Emily was tall enough to play one-on-one with Shaquille O’Neal, (when she’s wearing high heels anyway). Emily has a very tall, slender and graceful figure; she didn’t even have to raise her arms above her head in order to reach the highest sections of the overhead cabinets.
As she handed the glass over to Caroline, Caroline did something unexpected, she turned her head to look at me with a neutral look and said an uninflected voice, “Thank you.” Even though it was Emily who helped her get the glass she recognized me as the person to show gratitude, and her “thank you” was unexpected also considering that I just insulted her thirty-seconds ago. “You’re welcome,” I responded instinctively in a somewhat lackluster tone. That was the first conversation between Caroline and I. It was a modest beginning but so was Microsoft and look where it got them, a heap of trouble, which was eventually how the relationship between Caroline and I ended. But that part of our relationship I’ll reveal in greater detail later.
Caroline was a strange girl but then again she had a strange upbringing. Mostly raised in a hospital and by doctors and nurses instead of her parents, spent her childhood in constant pain and suffering, then all of a sudden had her parents killed in a tragic accident in which she witnessed and survived. Perhaps I should have been more understanding of her condition, perhaps I should have left her alone to mourn for her loss instead of pounding on the door like a maniac, perhaps I should have been more sensitive to her feelings by not referring to her as a “piece of shit.”
But bygones are bygones, I can’t hop into a time machine to change what I have done in the past, all I can do is to take responsibility for what I have done, unlike our president. I admit that our relationship did not start off on the right note, indeed I don’t believe I made a good impression when I planted my drenching wet body beside hers at the back seat of a car. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t know that later that day I would be riding in the backseat of the car with Caroline or that she has recently lost both her parents, but my failure to make a good first impression on her left an indelible stain that would affect our relationship for years to come.
Continue to next chapter.