"A Decade of Disgust"- Mersera Alvaro
When students are taught their history of the past century, it's typically divided into neat categories by each and every decade that rests within it. The sixties. The eighties. A lot can be said about America's generations by terms like that alone.
But boy, oh boy- the Dawning of the Twenty-First Century-! Was that ever a huge hullabaloo: Cards, stuffed bears with t-shirts bearing the emblem "21st" in bright, primary colors, bumper stickers hailing the beginning of a whole new chapter in history, tattoos, coffee mugs, and all other sorts of festive bric-a-brac. Party City probably made a fortune off of over-priced party blowers alone and the zaniest part was that nobody cared.
It was a fresh start, and it was met with gusto.
But now, upon entering the muggy living room, I can't help but wish that such a decade never came to be.
The person who owned the house last- ironically, an absolute neat-freak- would have died right then an there, to see her preciously cared-for home in the decrepit state that it had fallen into over the past few years. Her home had been clean, I know was. Polished floors, streak-free windows, and that faint smell of cleaning agents just tickling the edges of your nose from the instant you sprang through the front door. I remember that smell well. Too well, even. I can never seem to get used to the reeking stench that sharpens the air now, what? Four years later. Four years, and the man has yet to lift a finger to it.
Tip-toeing around the landmine of month-old chip crumbs, Doritos, Cheetos, and some other, unidentifiable, sticky patch of brownish gunk (I'm guessing dried chocolate ice cream or syrup, though I could be completely off), I ease my way through the kitchen, idly scrubbing the odd counter spot with any old, slightly damp, towels that line the edges. Towers constructed from gaudy green and white ceramic plates obstruct my reach from the Lady Grey in the far-left cabinet, so I bodily lift them in one, fell swoop, and fork lift them to the already over-flowing sink, dropping them as lightly as possible atop the other dishes, hoping the slight crash isn't loud enough to wake him up.
I check myself, stilling so that I can tune into the harsh, rasping snores that reverberate from the back room, but they don't end with a final, crescendo-ed snore and a yell to know what happened, so I go about my business.
The house it quiet (save for the rumbling din from his den) since my brother and sister have both escaped to their private worlds. Their sanctuaries within this death trap. My brother, to his games, mindlessly, yet cunningly, snipes down roof-top Nazis; the bare whisper of rat-tat-tats from his pixilated machine gun can be detected. My sister, to her own room, where the odd strum of guitar strings seems to summon a sort of life to the ill-pitched lighting, alongside their working lyrics. Overcoming. It always seems to be about overcoming.
Selecting the largest mug that I can find, I hustle it to the sink, take one look at the potential avalanche of pottery and glass, and then opt for the fridge instead. Bumping the rim of my cup against the trigger, I impatiently wait for the appliance to spit the water out to a decent level, then hazard my way across the floor again to the ancient box that is the microwave.
Open. Three minutes and twenty-five seconds. Start. The microwave sputters to life, creaking and groaning as it wearily tugs my mug around in circle after circle, like a roasting spit or nuclear carousel ride. An eerily warm breeze flows out from under it, stirring the tiny hairs on the backs of my arms. I step back to collect the sugar bowl and tea bags.
"I'd like to have kids, thank you."
And really, I would. I had mentioned it to him the night before, said in five or so years I'd graduate from college and get married. Have kids. Lots of kids. I had tapped an imaginary watch on my wrist.
'Time goes faster than you think.'
Too fast. The past ten years are a blur, the most prominent of memories involving obscure moments in school, or the odd image of just hanging out in my old room. Ten years had brought me from an out-of-control second grader, blaming everyone but the one at fault, hating easily, fighting with anyone who spoke to me, taking a chip on my shoulder and hurling it at anyone who dared to mention it, to a young woman of seventeen. Much quieter. Much more docile.
Much more aware of who was to blame.
He had scowled, obviously put-out by this sharing of ideals, and began stammering in that way of his when he feels he must correct my naïve sentiments, wracking his memories for what Oprah or Dr. Phil would have said in a situation like this. Finally, he pulled out an old hand.
'Well, you know, you think you know yourself, but you won't truly know who you are, or what you want for the rest of your life. You're young. Twenty-one- is too young to know what you want. Don't throw your life away.'
The microwave beeps shrilly, as though it was waiting for me, and I jerk the handle to the small door, tapping the mug once with my finger to test its temperature, then, retracting it, balance my way to the table.
'Don't throw your life away…' Is that what he considered it? Giving life to four children was the end of his? Like most of his sayings, this one contradicted them. He always speaks about how we brought joy to his life. Then talks about how he can't think whenever we get in the car with him- whenever we go home with him. Sometimes they're rolled out in the same breath. He's proud of his house. Can we clean it for him? Work's been hard this week. I had time to watch four straight hours of nothing while I watched you sweep and mop. He didn't really feel like making dinner for the three of us that night- could we find something by ourselves?
It'd have been fine. Originally, I had been tickled that he asked for my help. That I had been given a seat of responsibility.
If only "this week" wasn't every week. And every week in every year for ten years hadn't been the same. If only once- just once- I could feel like I came here for reason other than picking up after a man four times my age. What had once been requests became expectance. What had been blind devotion morphed into exasperation. I was sick of it all.
'You don't know what you want…You don't know what's good for you…You're a child…'
'Don't you know how to clean a floor? Can you take care of me? Can you take care of your siblings while I sit here for the rest of the day?'
Tear me down just to tear me down some more.
I've heard it all- but only ever from him. No matter what he has told me, I am not like him.
I stir a fork in my tea- there aren't any clean spoons- and fish the soggy teabag from the bottom, pressing it against the inside of the cup to squeeze the last of the flavor from the lump of wet, shredded leaves, and tip the sugar bowl so that a thin stream of granulated sweetness can slip out. A quick sip tells me it's too hot to drink yet. I retrieve an ice cube from the freezer and plunk it in. Another taste tells me it's perfect.
From where I sit, I can watch my brother kill World War Germans on the wide screen, the revolving of the camera angles and flashing lights making me a bit disoriented. I gulp down a mouthful of Lady Grey and avert my eyes to the gap in the window shades. A few roses peek over the railing, starkly contrasting with the pale greens and off-whites of the interior. Overcoming. Overwhelming.
Gasping, hog-like grumbles burble through the dry plaster separating his room from the dining area, and I resist the peculiar urge to giggle at the appalling sound.
I can't hate him. I can't even come close to it, if I'm honest. Pity him? Dislike him as a person? It shouldn't be so, and yet, that's where he's driven all of us. Ten years, and his colors have never shone brighter. The only one who never figured out what he wanted was him. He's made mistakes. He was reckless in his youth. He never learned that his children would become people. He never learned that we children are not like him.
I can't hate him. I love him. I will always love him. I will never be able to deny that he, as much as it disturbs me, is a part of who I am. A part I watch closely. A part I fear will grow. His laziness, his deceit, his baiting of tempers- all of the qualities that I wage war with on a daily basis.
He's alone, and it disgusts me to think that one day, he expects me to be the same.
A/N: Another story written for class, to express a time our character felt disgusted. Critique is encouraged, as usual. Any measure of commentation is welcome. Pick away.