56 Stand up straight. Tuck your shirt in. Keep quiet. Quit fighting. Sit still. God why couldn’t we of had girls? Everyone says that girls are so much easier. Toughen up. That wasn’t so bad. Quit crying. You don’t want everyone to see you crying do you? Your father never cries; don’t you want to be like your father? You feel your eyes grow moist, but nothing falls. Even here they do not flow. The pumps stay off. You pound your fist on the dash. The bottom of your fist hurts, the muscles bruised. Fuck. The sharp explosion of the expletive ricochets through the car’s interior. Your body tightens and shakes. You pound the dashboard once again. It hurts like hell. The blasts subside. The debris settles. The dust falls from the air. Your muscles loosen once again. You sit and look out over the city lights, trying to spot your house amongst the herd. The old man walks into your room to yell at you to hurry up. You're going to miss the bus. He looks down and spots the old pocket knife with the cheap plastic handle sitting on the dresser. He asks if it is the same one that you were given when you were ten? It is. He tells you again to hurry up, and then leaves the room. You finish getting dressed and rush out to the dining room table to hurriedly force down a dry bowl of bag brand frosted flakes. Your father eats oatmeal, eggs, and coffee. The same meal he always eats, every day except Sundays. Your mother leans against the kitchen counter, eating toast. The air is tense. They’ve been fighting. They’re waiting for you and your little brother to leave for the battle to renew. The arrival of the bus offers you an escape. You spend all day in the classroom. Sitting in the middle of the room. Not up front with the over achievers. Not in the back with the slackers. You sit and stare at boobs out of the corner of your eye. You’re glad you’re sitting down. You get caught looking. She gives you a dirty look. You can read her thoughts through her expression. Pervert. What the fuck are you looking at? They’re just boobs. Just part of the human anatomy. Not wanking material for your dirty fantasies. These are something special. These are my magic secret. I only show them to guys I like. You’re not one of the guys I like. You're weird. Remember that time in sixth grade when you cried on the playground? Everyone remembers. You shift in your seat uncomfortably and try to focus on the blackboard, but all you see is boobs. That evening is the basketball game. You’re on the JV team. You spend most of the game on the bench. Your little brother spends most of the game on the court. You feel a deep sense of shame. You make sure no one
CIRQUE notices that you feel it. You laugh and make jokes with the other benchwarmers. The coach yells at you to pay attention. The final buzzer sounds and you head down to the locker room. Your mother and your father stand in the crowd at the doorway. Your mother tells both you and your brother good job. The old man remains quiet. As you head down to the locker room you can hear your mother comment to another woman how much your little brother looks like his father. The next morning there is a small package on your dresser. It’s a new pocket knife. The windows are steaming up, so you turn back on the car. You click on the radio, and play with the dial until you find some music that you like. It’s getting late. It’s well past midnight. There’s no reason to stay up here all night. You flip the switch for the headlights and put the car back into gear. It doesn’t drive in automatic. You have to think about it every time you hit the brake or gas. Each turn of the wheel to the left and right. You feel tired. Exhausted. You’re ready for bed. Tell me how you feel. You are my rock. Why don’t you ever talk about your feelings? I don’t know what I would do without you. Quit trying to fix it. I hate it when you try and fix things. I’m sorry I forgot. Why don’t you ever do anything for me? I just want you to listen. The shower drain is clogged, would you mind fixing it? Why don’t you do what I ask? You're so selfish. Not now, I’m tired. Quit acting so weird. I’m glad that I found you. Jesus, can’t you act like an adult? Act your age. I just want you to ask me about my day. Don’t turn this around on me. Nothing I do is good enough for you. It’s not my fault. I’m doing the best I can. I can’t believe you said that. Is that what you really think? The car pulls into the driveway. You set the radio back to her station and move the dials for the heat back to where she likes them. You turn off the car and sit for a moment, enjoying the silence. You breathe in and out a couple times, and head inside the house. She’s sitting on the couch. Her eyes are puffy and red. She looks up as you come in. You sit down on the couch next to her. You apologize, then you go to bed.
A literary journal featuring writers and artists of the North Pacific Rim.