For quite a long time Caroline was aloof and emotionally distant, and understandably so. I have never lost both parents before, even though I lost my father not due to his death but by virtue of him having effectively abandoned us. Dad was a person that one could never rely on; he comes and goes when he pleases. He could be quite charming and sweet to the point that mom would allow him in the sack for a night or two, but then he would disappear and we would not hear from him for another six months. Mom endured his behavior for six years until one night, fed up with his I-came-I-saw-I-left routine, kicked him out of the apartment while he was still in his underwear. Even so mom must have been in a good mood because she did not leave him naked so he would retain at least some of his dignity, not that it made much of a difference thermodynamically in a summer evening in California.
Dad was a lot like Uncle Cecil, he was jovial and humorous and I saw him as often as I did Cecil. He would have been a great father if he had been there more often, instead of sending a cardboard cutout of himself on April Fool’s Day. (Yes, he either had a very cruel sense of humor or was a little mentally unstable, believing that a stiff piece of paper can replace the presence of a warm live human being. Mom took his joke lightly though, she put the cardboard cutout in the living room until our cat started using it as a scratching post.)
It wasn’t because he didn’t care about us; his occupation took him too far away from home for unendurable stretches of time. He worked as a contractor in Thailand sometimes for stretches of eighteen months, only to return on holidays. For quite a while mom remained quietly home like Penelope, being a faithful wife and pining away until the day her Odysseus will return. But a relationship could not withstand such abuse for more than six years and mom eventually decided that divorce was the only recourse. As for dad, he remained in contact with us for about half a month after the divorce before unexpectedly disappearing. His whereabouts to this day is a complete mystery, though I have to say that there are so many things that could happen to a man in a city named Bangkok.
I never knew my father well, to me he was only a shell, his personality only a defense against exposing his true feelings to anyone he loved and cared about. I envied those friends of mine who had true fathers, even those whose fathers were archetypal Homer Simpsons who did nothing but sit in front of the TV and watched football with his potbelly popping out from under his tank top. At least those types of fathers were always there for their children even if the only time they participated in their children’s lives was when they asked them to hold his beer while they tried to eat nachos with two hands. I didn’t care what my father was like, all I wanted was his presence, apparently though even that was too much for him to bear.
I don’t know how I was affected by never having a father around, perhaps never having any men around and growing up solely being closed to women adversely affected me in some way. But then again I think men are overrated in their abilities to be good parents. I was raised by my mother and I didn’t turn out gangster contrary to the predictions of evangelical Christians and proponents of the pro-father movement. Perhaps never having a father did adversely affect me in certain ways, for example in my life thus far I’ve only had one girlfriend, a fact which would lead some to conclude that I’m pathetic. Then again it might not be such a bad thing because it could also be interpreted that I’m a loyal and faithful lover instead of a whoring slut.
You might find my attitude towards the opposite sex a little strange, though that is what I learn through my relationship with my cousin. At first our relationship was completely unromantic and asexual. Indeed how could it be otherwise? We were both too naive and innocent to understand that the equipment down there was for more than passing urine and a quick way to disable adults who intend to harm us. Well, I discovered masturbation by the age of 9 though that’s a different story altogether.
At first Caroline and I barely spoke to one another. It seemed as though we weren’t aware of one another’s presence within the same house, when she was in the living room watching television I was in my room reading, and when I was in my room reading she was over at the boob tube watching talk shows. I do not know what to say to someone who has gone through such a tragic loss. I had a fairly good life despite my initial upbringing in a tough neighborhood in Oakland, but I had never lost as much as Caroline had. What do I say to her? “Sorry for your loss, nonetheless I couldn’t bring your parents back to life and could offer you nothing more consoling than these words?” I’m not good at being a source of comfort at a time of distress, and if I told her the harsh truth it might even make her even more sad than she already was.
Of course, I could also tell her, “Sorry for your loss, though I know a way of bringing your parents back from the dead. All I need are some surgical grade titanium plates, surgical sutures, a head off of a fresh corpse, a 50 millifarad capacitor, a 1000V DC power source and a few alligator clips. Of course, there’s always a risk I’ll create two unholy monsters who will escape and start terrorizing hapless villagers, or even worse, breeding with one another and crating a race of unstoppable monsters who will roam the world murdering the human race. But all scientific endeavors entail some risk, either it be blowing up the world or simply pissing off Greenpeace.” Nah, that would be too disturbing for her, better tell her that I didn’t have the ability to revive her parents than to tell her that I had the ability but doing so would inherently risk creating horribly mutilated monstrosities.
I had all the time in the world to talk to my cousin, considering the fact it was summer vacation and mom’s too cheap to send any of us off to camp. Instead I decided to spend most of the time in the library with my head buried in encyclopedias and other erudite reading materials. Emily had her own business to attend to, she had a suite of friends to hang out with. They went to the movies, the local ice cream shop and juice bars and discussed subject-matters girls of her age are preoccupied with; who is going out with whom; who caught whom doing what; who is interested in whom and what reason prevents who from telling whom how who feels about whom, and other similar scenarios or any combination of the previous scenarios. The more time I spent with my sister the more I started to believe that language was something created by women, because men do not have so much crap to gossip about with other men. Men probably coopted this invention by the females as they found it as a useful way to express sports results (the previous system of grunts had become too ambiguous; two grunts could mean the team scored two points or there were two minutes left over before the game ended).
Of course I’m only kidding, language was probably developed by both men and women, and there are chatty men as well as women who don’t like to express themselves orally. Men also have plenty of things to talk about, though they are less concerned with the social sphere than with technical things such as computers, car repair, home improve, etc. Now, I know perfectly normal straight men who sit around and discuss gossipy things; the details about other people’s love lives; even exchange beauty tips such as how to style one’s hair up to date. Of course, they all did this under the pretext of gathering together to study, but as an outside observer I can’t help but seeing them as a group of chatty schoolgirls gathering together to talk to their girlfriends.
One could never generalize to say which types of activities are characteristically feminine or masculine. Of course I’ve never seen a woman sitting in a sofa with her belly hanging out for everybody to see watching a football game or a man asking his hairdresser, “What would you recommend to add more volume to my hair?” Though I personally use a little hairspray because I think mousse is a little too messy.
Continue to next chapter.