All of my life I’ve tried as hard as I could to be successful. I worked for my goals, and for the most part I have always been satisfied with my results. I can’t really be sure exactly what first caused my problem. My parent’s never really supported my ambitions of being a botanist. They thought I would be better off as a medical doctor. I never wanted to deal with patients or their drips. Frankly, I’m not a people person.
It all started around my 17th birthday. I’ve replayed every event I can remember in my head. The only thing that stands out was my gift from my parents. A small statue of a short and stout man wearing a mask with half of his mouth in a cartoonish grin, and the other half in a frown. I still have him sitting on my desk, he’s still watching me while I type this.
I don’t know exactly how to say what’s happening, so I guess I’ll just start from the first time it happened. It was around midnight, I changed my browser over to “incognito mode” to find some “romance videos.” I popped open my pants to get down to business, and, well, my pants were closed and my browser was back to normal. I was confused, but determined. I tried a different website, got myself ready and, again, everything back to normal.
I went accapella. The moment there was a stiff wind in my sails, back to pants up. I screamed into my pillow. I gave up. It took me forever to get to sleep that night.
The next morning, I chalked it up to a rough night and maybe some weird half dream thing. I went downstairs for breakfast. My mom and dad were already at the table. Dad might as well have been out of a movie. Dress shirt, tie, cup of coffee, newspaper. He’s like a checklist. Mom’s the same, maybe that’s why they’ve been together for so long. Dress, pearls, big diamond on her finger. I’m surprised she never wore the apron I bought her as a joke a few years ago.
I took my usual seat.
“Any new acceptance letters?” My dad peered at me over his newspaper.
“Not yet, just Berkley and Ohio State.”
“I wonder what’s taking Harvard so long?” My mother pondered aloud, poking at eggs on the stove.
I rummaged through the cabinet for a poptart.
“Oh honey, just wait for the eggs, I almost have them finished.”
“That’s alright, I need to get going.” I ripped the package open, and went to take a bite.
Foil. It was wrapped. Wide awake, in front of my parents. It’d just happened again.
I ripped it open and went for a bite. Again. And again. And again. And again.
“You have to unwrap it first, son.” My father said without looking up from the sports page, shaking his head subtly.
My heart pounded, I was so angry I was lightheaded. I ripped the wrapper off and threw it into the trash. I took another bite.
I was back in my seat. No poptart in my hand, no poptart to be seen.
“How do you want your eggs this morning Sweetie?”
“I want them to be poptarts!” I ripped through the trash can, throwing my family’s trash around the kitchen. Not a single pop tart wrapper. I looked through the mess twice. They were right back in the cabinet. I sat there on the floor, dumbfounded, trash scattered everywhere. My dad was looming over me. He didn’t look mad, or confused.
“Get it cleaned up, guy.” He left the room, shaking his head. Mom stared at me like I belonged in an asylum.
“Eggs are fine.” I relented, lazily picking up all of the trash I threw around the kitchen.
Back in my room, I plopped down in my bed and stared at the ceiling. My head was spinning with possibilities. A curse wasn’t logical. Crazy was plausible, but didn’t make sense because I was cognisant of what was happening. I checked for new messages on my computer. A little red envelope offered the possibility of relief.
Hey, we’re meeting at the park at 11 for the usual.
Relief had arrived! A night out with my friends is what I needed. I waited for 10:30 to swing around. The house was still, mom asleep, dad deep into a glass of old scotch. I opened my window, climbed out onto the trellis and climbed down. I guess I was kind of like a teenager in a movie as much as my parents. I stepped out onto the sidewalk. Still there. I started to walk down the street.
I screamed, then I sobbed. I threw the little statue my parents gave me at the window. It bounced off, and deflected into my forehead. Maybe I hadn’t been sleeping and I was having some weird recurring dream, I thought in a moment after being hit with a statuette. It was comforting. I opened my window, descended back down the trellis. I started to step out onto the sidewalk, I tried to be vigilant. There had to be an explanation. I was definitely awake.
Concrete under my foot. I exhaled deeply and started to walk down the street. Street lights on, windows dark. Everything was exactly like it had been every other time I slipped out into the night. I stopped at the end of the block. I bounced in place like a boxer. I started huffing. I charged into the street at full bore.
I was abruptly stopped by the window in my room. Testosterone is one hell of a motivator. I charged the window and jumped with my shoulder forward. I remember the glass breaking against my skin, the thud on the front lawn, opening my eyes, sore and laying on my bedroom floor. I gave up. I laid there for at least fifteen minutes. I drug myself to my computer, opened the message about the park and replied.
*Sorry I couldn’t make it. I’m feeling like shit. Next time, guys.*
I looked at the clock on my taskbar. 10:40 PM. I wrote down estimates of how much time my ordeal took. I added them up. It should have at least been 11:00 PM, even by my most conservative estimates. I holed up in my room for a few days. I still went to class, but then straight home and to my room. Everything stayed… normal.
Monday rolled back around, I’d been in my hermitage for about a week. I went through the motions again, it’d been the most boring week of my life. Any attempts at relaxing like I usually do were met with a prompt opportunity to try again. School was quiet, I avoided my friends so I wouldn’t have to answer questions.
When I got home, I checked the mail. I had letters from a few schools. I ripped through the envelopes. They all read the same, “Welcome to our Pre-medicine program!”
I didn’t apply to any schools under the pre-med programs. Maybe one misclick in the application, but definitely not the same error in all of them. My parents. They had to be behind it. I waited in the living room like a crazed wife waiting on a cheating husband. Two hours I waited. I thought I’d settle down waiting, but all I did was get angrier. They both happened to stroll in at the same time.
“What the fuck did you do?!”
They were taken aback, but I could see through it all. They knew. I knew. They knew that I knew. They weren’t shocked at my anger, they didn’t try to apologize. Dad said seven little words that I can still hear to this day.
“Don’t you take that tone with me.”
Gasoline to the fire. Water into acid.
“Don’t you fucking take that decision from me!”
That’s what I wanted to say, and started to tell him. I got about half way through my sentence before I was quiet and hearing, “Don’t you take that tone with me.” in the calmest, clearest voice my dad had ever used. He had a confidence about it. I hadn’t noticed it the first time, or the second time, but by the fourth time I’d tried to convey my message, it rung in my ears.
“Why did you change my degree program?” I grumbled, my heart trying furiously to escape my chest.
“I just think it’s for the best. You can go try to change it to Beauty or Art History or whatever nonsense if you insist.”
My heart hit the ground. Something washed over me. It felt like sadness, but looking back, it was futility. The word “try” stood out to me, he said it differently, it was condescending. I walked away, for some reason he won what I shouldn’t have been able to lose. I paced in my room. I stared out the window. I tried to send e-mails to admissions for the schools I’d recieved letters from. Every time the message was almost “sent,” it was back to sitting, written on my monitor. He knew.
That night I heard an argument start. I sat on the staircase and listened.
“What the fuck do you mean we shouldn’t use it anymore? Diane, it was expensive, and he’s on the straight and narrow, and by God he’ll be a damn doctor in a few years!”
“Is that all you care about? You were a delinquent when you were a kid!”
There was an awkward silence. Then a crash, and mom screaming. I tried to run down the stairs. Back to sitting at the top. I ran down faster. Back to the top. I dove down, tears running down my cheeks. Back to the top. I kept trying until I couldn’t breath between the running and the sobbing. Every time, back to the top of the stairs.
Dad kept yelling. “I should have gotten one for you! Why cant he just have a nice life? Why do you have to bring my past into this?!”
Mom was quiet as far as I could tell. Suddenly, dad was quiet. After a moment, I could hear the soft sound of feet shuffling through the house towards the stairs. Mom’s right arm was covered in blood. I ran down the stairs. Straight to the bottom. I hugged her. Black eye, some bruises, but she was in one piece.
“In the storage room.” she replied nonchalantly.
I went to check on him. There he was, sewing scissors sticking from his chest, blood ruining the rug. The police ruled it self defense, given mom’s physical state. I’ve never been able to get her to tell me exactly what they were fighting about, but I haven’t had any more blips in my life.