Self-portait (WARNING: CONTAINS FLASHING IMAGES)
What’s Going On?
The room stank of failure. Eric’s mother sat to his right, practically suffocating, staring straight ahead while he cratered again on the living room carpet. The television was completely overwhelmed by the sound of Eric’s news exploding over his parents. Eric always spoke softly his admissions, then let his parents’ silence come screaming back. ‘Safe within yourself!’ it always seemed to say. ‘Never thinking about us or anyone else! Such a perfect little angel, our son!’
Risking his mother’s life Eric turned his attention to his father, sitting on the family couch. An oversized, gross, beast of a thing, bought to scale-down the appearance of an ordinary-sized man whose anger could expand to cover two or even three cushions. An illusion Eric knew from experience: from bad report cards and broken lamps in his bedroom; from refusing to eat all his dinner; from asking to go to Woodstock ’94 with his other ‘idiot’ friends; from being brought home early in the morning by the police when he was supposed to be sleeping at George’s. (‘Why is George in the car, too? What were you doing in the park so late?’); from losing fights and baseball games and forgetting his mother’s birthday; from dating boys.
Eric rubbed his shoulder without thinking. His father flinched. ‘This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!’ Eric never believed that. Not the first time, when he’d heard it out loud, or the last time, when he’d said the same thing to himself, in his mind, before it started. The onslaught. It caused his mother to cry, to shriek between confused and terrified sobs; blows of sound rained down as Eric encountered his father, growing fearless against the rage and senselessness overflowing the couch and trying to drown my ’son’, my ‘boy’, my ‘little gentleman’.
Eric’s father was already sunburned, his face and neck and arms blistering hot and red. ‘You’re doing what?’
‘George and I are getting married.’ This was it but Eric was ready. Neither he nor his father had changed much since the last time, about six months ago, when Eric had announced he was dating George. Another explosion and the couch erupted almost immediately, spewing rage on the television (cracked screen) the coffee table (trampled) the book shelf (three shelves broken) the mantle clock (shattered). Eric kept his eyes closed so he couldn’t say for certain what had happened. Who was crying? What was that, choking? What was so heavy? Who was so soft?
‘I wish you wouldn’t.’ Eric and his father and his mother all spoke at once. It seemed that way more and more now, in Eric’s mind, ever since he had opened his eyes and found his father broken over the broken coffee table. His mother shrank back as Eric emerged from the crater.
‘That’s not supposed to happen’, she said, whimpering, afraid and disappointed.
‘You say that every time’, said Eric, sniffing, as he left the room and then the house, with George, who was waiting in the hallway.