Wheeling Park Ch. 13byAmeaner©
And you know where those problems came from, don't you? That's right, lil ol', antisocial me.
Things were good for the first little while. At least until the world fully settled back in and I began to notice a lot more the jokes about incest around the campus, on TV, etc. It's probably the same thing that happens when a person gets nailed on a DUI, he starts really noticing all those mothers against drunk driving on TV and billboards.
I tried to put it out of my head right from the very first, because I knew what I had in Jen and I didn't want to lose her, didn't want to crush her like that, either. But, it worked on me and worked on me, to the point where I lost focus in my studies. I tried to hide my feelings around the house and was, by and large, successful at that for a while. Then, my good ol' paranoia set in and I wanted to very much avoid Olivia while somehow distancing myself from the situation.
I hated myself, cursed myself, raged silently for some excuse at having allowed all this to happen and started having a hard time facing up to people, especially Jen and my mom, who I felt I had betrayed and was still betraying by even feeling that way.
I'd taken to standing idle, looking at the floor and softly cursing under my breath at the things that occupied my mind. Once, I got caught doing that at university by, of course, none other than the fucking Guidance councilor (I spent almost twenty minutes in his office, soft handling him and convincing him I was neither schizophrenic, or clinically depressed) and that's when I knew I had to get on top of this, somehow.
I got a job with a roofing company and it wasn't long before I saved enough money by climbing scaffolding with bundles of shingles for first and last month's rent. It was a very small apartment in a low income building that a handful of other students lived in, but it was mine and it was a secret. I started finding excuses to not go home with Jen, began missing our noon study time off and on until I was able to cut contact with all three of them entirely.
It wasn't easy, not at all. I missed them, especially Jen. So many times I almost walked out that door and got in the car to go home, you can't imagine, but I never did. I threw myself into my studies, carefully managing them, my classes and a job. This was actually easier than you'd think, since I didn't have a life, and after I learned how to very effectively budget my new 'go nowhere, do nothing' lifestyle, I began to build a savings account. Before too long, my nerves and self hatred actually began to clear with the help of regular inputs of rye and beer, which I kept stockpiled in abundance, like I did potatoes, oats and, of course, Mr. Noodles.
So, that's how I ended up sitting in my darkened little hole on Christmas Eve, taking a drink of rye from the plastic pint bottle and watching two British lads flinging small French cars with a giant trebuchet they'd built on Utube. It sounds pretty lowbrow, but it's not as if there's any TV worth watching on Christmas Eve and I'd just aced my midterms, so I figured I had the right to lower my brow for a little while.
I jumped about a foot, suddenly muting the sound on my laptop and whipping my head around at the door. There were two dark shadows in the crack of light at the bottom, somebody's feet, but since I didn't know anyone outside work,...
I took another slug at the pint and set it on my desk as I stood quietly, looking at those two shadows. I crept on the balls of my bare feet to the door and looked through the peephole.
Olivia seemed to be staring right back through it at me. Her tan, western style, sheepskin winter coat with the fur collar was sprinkled with snow that had yet to melt, same as on her hair and the toes of her salt stained, dark brown hiking boots. There was a merrily smiling little Santa Claus face with flashing LED lights on her lapel, completely offsetting her pissed off expression.
"Open the door, Jarid."
I jerked away from the peephole as though it might try to hurt me. How in hell did she find me? And what did she want? (Fuck!)
I decided to stay quiet and try to make her think I was out.
"I said,... open,... the fuckin door, Jarid!"
My shoulders sagged as I let out a resigned sigh. Yeah, she knew I was there and I knew her well enough to know that the best thing I could do right then was to open the door. If I didn't, she probably would have used the fire extinguisher in the hall to break the doorknob off and then walk right in, anyway.
As soon as I unlocked the knob it turned from the other side and she pushed the door open, walking straight in, even knocking my shoulder and putting me a little drunkenly off balance for a moment while she shoved the door shut again behind her with a slam. She moved to the center of the tiny, mostly unfurnished living room and looked around herself, then at me.
"So, where are they?"
"Who? You sent an email telling us you met someone and that you were spending the holidays with her and her family. So, where are they? They discover what a little fuck you are and leave?"
"I had to say something," I said quietly, daring to meet her eyes.
"Yeah,... That was fuckin' somethin, alright, you have no idea," Olivia spat.
She glanced around again and remarked, "What a dump," before walking closer, getting a better look at me in the available light from the bathroom. "And look at you. You smell like a distillery and you look like a bum."
"This is my place and if-"
"Your place is at home! We haven't seen or heard from you in over two months and things aren't going very fuckin' well since you ran out!"
"That's not my problem. I'm just trying to have a normal life and I can't-"
"Not your problem? Jarid, it's your family! If you love them, it's your problem!"
"I can't drive myself crazy dealing with that for the rest of my life!"
"You should have come to us!"
"What, to get brainwashed again!? Fuck, it's not as if you three are unbiased, is it!? I have a right to happiness and I did the only thing I could do! If you three can't deal with that and move on, then yes, that's your problem and not mine!"
"You don't understand what you've done, you little asshole! Your mother doesn't know if she should be more worried about you or Jen! And don't you tell me one more time that it's not your problem! That house is in turmoil because you left!"
"I'm sorry, I never wanted to hurt anybody, but I couldn't hack it!" I shouted. "It's not my problem and don't think you can puoooiiiissshhhh-!"
I couldn't remember the last time someone punched me in the stomach, but Olivia certainly ran a good refresher course. Down I went, sinking to my knees, trying to catch my breath and keep the mostly liquid contents of my stomach from the carpet.
"Jen is fuckin heartbroken, you worm! She mopes around the house and never smiles anymore, her midterms were a god damned disaster and her performance on the ice can't even be called lackluster! She's a basket case who cries herself to sleep half the time! Meanwhile, your mother is sure you're thinking the worst of us, crying half the time herself, trying to help Jen while worrying where her other kid is and if he's all-fuckin-right!"
"Ykuk!" I offered.
And if that wasn't enough, I've been dealing with your damned father all fuckin' day, who finds it pretty strange that you're not there, as if his ex wife's lesbian lover wasn't enough!"
"Fa-! Fatdhu!?" I forced, alarmed and very much paying attention now, my aching gut suddenly of very little importance.
"Yes, you're father! Apparently, you never even bothered to open all the email we sent you, cause if you had, you'd know he was spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day with us, wouldn't you?" Fuckhead! And that's the big reason you're coming back with me tonight, even if I have to drag you on your ass, because if you think I'm going to deal with him alone, you got another thing coming! If you think it won't be your problem if he gets your sister alone and breaks her down, cause he's curious about what the fuck is wrong with her, that's most definitely gonna be your fuckin problem, Jarid! You're coming back and we're going to handle that bastard, because I had to leave them alone with him and I ain't goin back without the chip off that ol' block in our corner to show for it!"
She grabbed me and physically dragged me to the bathroom, ordering, "I want you out here in fifteen minutes, ready to get dressed with a shower, shave and brushed teeth! If you're not, I'm coming in to finish for you, and it won't be like it was in the fuckin Park!"
A little less than a half hour later, she was shoving me into the elevator, already occupied by two people, of course two female students. One of them was kind of pretty and actually made an effort to talk to me the week before. I was thinking I might say hello the next time I saw her, but just then I was trying not to look at them at all.
"I still can't believe you," she fumed as the doors shut, sealing the three of us in with her. "Fuckin' two months and not one god damned word. And after everything you said, you cad. After everything- What the fuck are you lookin at, you dirty little fuckin twats!? Huh!?"
(No no no, this can't be happening!)
The girls franticly jabbed at the button representing the next floor we would descend to. The car stopped and they hurried off, apparently deciding to take the stairs instead.
A half hour trip, maybe a little more on account of the snowy conditions to sober the hell up, at least a little, and prepare myself for a meeting with Dad.
Dad. I hadn't seen him for some time, almost a year and, even if the circumstances were different, I wouldn't exactly go out of my way to see him again, anyway. He seemed to think he was the only one with better things to do, seemed to think he could just run out on us and leave us twisting in the wind like- exactly like I did.
I cracked the window and lit a cigarette, a habit I'd taken up to replace pot, which I couldn't get because I didn't know anyone. Olivia glanced over at me from the driver's side of the jeep as I pinched the bridge of my nose, looking down in my lap. All the efforts I'd made at building some kind of normal, sane life for myself were being threatened and I feared I'd never really live entirely on this side of Wheeling Park's culvert ever again.
I heaved a heavy sigh and looked up, straight ahead through the windshield, the wipers dutifully clearing away the driving snow for me. Taking another drag and exhaling slowly first, I asked, "How does he treat you, how's he treating Mom, what all has he said and what's he been asking who? Try to use his exact words and everyone else's when they answered him, or said anything of any importance."
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
"My ba-by takes the mor-nin train!
He works from nine to five and then!-"
It was Dad and Leslie, his new wife. He actually brought her. They were in the living room trying to sing in harmony with Jen's Karaoke machine and having a great old time. Meanwhile, Mom was sitting on the couch watching in a condition somewhat akin to catatonia.
I almost didn't recognize the attractive, young, dark brunette beside her. It was Jen and, obviously, she'd dyed her hair. She looked totally miserable while Olivia and I stood in the doorway to the room, as yet un-noticed.
"He takes a-no-ther home again!
To find me wai-ting fo-!"
Dad finally noticed us. He seemed pretty surprised and stopped singing while Leslie trailed off a few lone words after to stare a moment with him, directing Mom and Jen's attention our way, as well.
"Jarid!" Jen remarked, barely above a whisper as Mom seemed to gradually come alive.
"Surprise!" Olivia yelled happily, taking her coat off. "He called and told me his plans fell through, so I thought I'd make a run and grab him without tellin' yas. Great surprise, huh?"
Dad had made his way across the floor by then. He gave me one of those 'dear ol dad' hugs, then pumped my hand cheerfully.
"How are you, champ?" he asked enthusiastically while Leslie watched.
"Doin' good, Dad," I reported with a dry smile.
He looked at me a little funny, as if he was waiting for something, but then went on with his earlier enthusiasm.
"Glad to hear it, Son. Leslie and I are doing great, too. Hey, we brought slides from our vacation in Europe this year, betcha can't wait to see them, huh?"
"Makes the trip here worthwhile all on its own," I agreed, looking over his shoulder at Mom and Jen as they continued to stare, Mom with a growing smile, Jen with a slightly stunned expression.
"Yeah, I thought you'd want to see those. Hey, what's with the long hair? You goin' native on us?" he chuckled.
"Just grew this way," I said, wanting away from him already, but not eager to talk to Jen or Mom, either. "Actually, I-"
"Ha! What a wit! He gets that from me, y'know," he said to Leslie, turning halfway around before facing to me again. "Jumpin jeez, you've grown! You workin' out, or what?"
"Something like that. I got a job with a roofing company."
"A roof- but,... that's why I'm paying for your education, little buddy. So you don't have to do that kind of thing, like my father did for me."
I shrugged, shedding my army surplus, winter fatigue jacket and said, "Cars are expensive hobbies. Look, it's been kind of a lo-"
"Son, you could have called me, I'd have gotten you that car and anything else you needed, you know that! Hey, you're my number one son, right?" he asked, slapping my shoulder.
"I gotta use the can, I'll be right back."
I left him standing there, lying my coat over the newel post of the stair railing and going for the downstairs bathroom off the kitchen while Olivia flashed me a slightly suspicious look.
I did actually have to use the bathroom, but I took my good old time in there. Once I was finished thoroughly washing and drying my hands, I stood in front of the mirror, staring into it at my face, taking a good look at what he would be seeing, trying to forget that my discomfort around people had now extended itself into my own home (previous home) in a big way. The guilt and dread I felt over Mom and Jen were actually worse than my anxiety about having to try to 'handle' Dad and, ironically, the person I felt most at ease with right then was Olivia.
And how to handle him? Why in hell was he even there, and with his new wife at that? Once my focus and the rye I'd been drinking that day calmed me down a little, I was able to speculate on a likely answer for the first part of that question.
Alvery. That French fuck from next door that Dad would often talk to and go golfing with. Neighbor buddies in the cultured wilds of upper suburbia, you might say, and it was likely they were still golfing together. From what Olivia told me of his comments and questions, he obviously knew she and Mom were a couple, although nobody'd mentioned it yet, so Alvery probably told him about Olivia moving in. He may have even seen some peck on the cheek in the backyard, or driveway, or whatever between she and Mom and mentioned that to Dad, too. And now here he was, on a little fact finding mission no less, even having invited himself under the excuse of spending the Holidays with Jen and I, according to Olivia.
Well, they had nothing to hide. Mom and Olivia had never planned on hiding their relationship and that in itself was no big deal. Yet.
I took a deep breath and stood straighter, letting it out and abruptly leaving the bathroom. Mom was there, clearing dishes and straightening up, obviously waiting for me. Our eyes met as she walked closer.
"Mom,... I don't know what to say," I said in a low voice.
" ... You could say you love me. That would mean a lot right now. Besides that, the important thing is that you're here."
"You know I love you, Mom. That never changed."
She smiled a little, nodding and then said, "Jen,..."
"Not interrupting anything, am I?" Dad intruded with his overly cheerful manner.
He walked across the floor to the fridge with an expression that clearly expected some sort of answer.
"No," I lied, not looking away from Mom. "I was just telling Mom what a great mother she's been for us. We were lucky to have her."
(Let the games begin.)
" ... Yeah, that's right," he answered uncertainly. "Hey, champ, you want a beer? I guess if you're old enough to work like a man, you can drink like one, eh? Ha, ha!"
"No thanks," I said, leaving Mom with that smile at my compliment.
I walked to the fridge myself, but opened the freezer and took out the liter of Crown Royal I knew Olivia always kept there. I took off the cap as he watched and took a respectable slug without so much as a wince, replaced the cap and put it back.
"I'm good. Mom, do we have any Five Alive?"
"Yes we do, honey, I'll get you a glass," she said with a slightly confused expression on her face that Dad never noticed.
"Wh- what the hell was that?" he asked with an unsure smile.
" ... What?"
"With the bottle. You got a problem there, Son?"
"Problem? ... No. Hey, as long as we're supposed to be drinking like men, right? Anyway, I don't like sitting around plugging beer into my face like some guys do," I lied again, glancing 'involuntarily' down at the slight paunch his midriff had never sported before. "Just a nip every once in a while is all you need, un- Oh, thanks, Mom. -unless you're into getting drunk, or something."
"And you're not?"
"Who's got the time for it?" I asked, sipping at the orange juice while Mom left the room.
"Huh. Well, I guess I,... can't fault you on the logic. Hey, so you got a new car, eh? Still got the bike?"
"Oh. Uhh,..." he started, looking at me closely while I was able to relax a bit, finally having an excuse for my whiskey breath and suddenly feeling a lot warmer and a bit irritated. "Look, how've things-?"
He broke off suddenly, looking over his shoulder at the door while repositioning himself so he could see it before going on in a low, conspiratorial tone.
"How, ahhh,... How've things been since,... you know."
"Since the divorce?" I asked with a casual tone and volume.
"Well, not really. Son, I'm just a little surprised at your mother. I know about what's going on here, you know."
"Going on?" I asked, frowning slightly as if it seemed there might be something I should be concerned about.
"Yeah, you know, with this,... Olivia person.
"You mean that they're lesbians?"
"I- ... Well, yeah. What's up with that?"
I looked at him and blinked a few times, then shrugged my shoulders slowly with the glass of O.J. still in my hand and stated the obvious. "They're lesbians. There's nothing 'up' with it, they're,... well, lesbians. Nuff said."
"And you don't think that's odd? That your mother would just,... go like that?"
"Odd? Yeah, I suppose. I mean, who would have expected it, right? But, it's not as if it's never been known to happen and, anyway, who cares? They're really happy together, they have a great time out on Olivia's bikes and everything."
"Uh-huh," he stated.
"I hope you're not taking that personally, Dad."
"What?" he asked, taken off guard by this show of concern, showing me in turn that he was taking it personally.
"Well, you know what they say about men whose ex-wives suddenly prefer women."
"What do they say?" he asked, just a little on the defensive and as if he didn't know.
"Forget it. Like I said, you just shouldn't take that personally. I'm sure the statistics are padded and besides, you know how women are, eh? Listen, we should get out there," I finished, walking away and out of the room. I wiped a sudden smile off my face and stuck my head back in the kitchen to see him just standing there with a very curious expression. He started when he saw me.