Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
My inability to hold boring small talk with strangers is proof of nature over nurture. Friday night, my father, my stepmother, Ben and I managed to have a ten minute discussion on how cold it was. It was really fucken cold. That could have summed the whole discussion up.
To rectify the coldness, my father and his wife are headed to Cancun. My mother is in Florida. I have been walking around the streets of Boston with Ben at two o'fucken clock in the morning to get milkshakes, because really, what warms a frigid body more than cold milk blended with ice cream?
"You should use some of the family's timeshare in Florida." My father says. "It only costs about $400, and you could take like eight people down there with you. That's fifty bucks a piece." My father, the human abacus.
Maybe I should. I haven't taken a vacation since...I don't know. I went on tour with Steggy in 2003, I moved to Arifuckenzona a few months later. Since then, the furthest I've ventured is to my grandparents in Connecticut.
"My mother's pissed at me." My father says. "You've seen that commercial with the old guy who shuffles, and can't remember things? Your grandfather has that, and I'm trying to tell Ma she should tell the doctor to have him checked for it but" and small talk and small talk and small talk.
I should go to Florida. Or California. Or go to Vegas with Ben.
My father says, "Last time I went to Vegas, I learned to only take $200 with me. That way I won't spend more than I can afford. And if I make money, great. I've been doing really well at the dog track lately." and small talk and small talk and small talk about medium money.
"Your parents are remarkable." Ben says, on our way back to his house. "I've never seen someone be so interestingly boring. And they're so...nice. What happened to you?"
Nature over nurture. "I don't know." But I remember my father's temper when he was still with my mother. The way she taught me to work him into a rage. He was never the violent asshole father depicted in movies of the week or cop shows, but he had his moments of my body slammed to the wall head first into wheelbarrow the coffee table splintered my grandmother standing between us. But he didn't mellow with age. He didn't have a revelation or therapy or karma. He just got away from us. A small island with a woman who loved him more than power, kids who would offer him grandchildren.
"She's so smart." My father says of my stepniece. "She's fifteen months old and when her parents watch television too long, she climbs on to the table in front of them and dances. And sometimes" small talk small talk small talk "and we gave her one of your old Raggedy Andy dolls?"
"One of?" Ben asks.
"Yea, I had a big one from my grandparents, and a small one that we got from this place on the Cape, years before we moved there. It's weird, Jennifer had one too, and she got it around the same time. It's possible that we actually met when we were―"
"Wait." Ben says. "You had two Raggedy Andys but no Raggedy Ann?"
I know where this is going. "Yea."
"Well that explains a lot."
"It was because of my red hair that people got them for me."
"Oh, I'm not judging you. I just think it's funny. When I was a little kid I had My Little Ponys because my best friends were girls and they had them. I just didn't know any better." He laughs. And under his breath I hear "Two raggedy Andys. Homo."
I'd kick him under the table, but it's a small table and the angles are all wrong.
"Sorry about the gay jokes." Ben says on the T ride home. "But, really, two Raggedy Andys but no Ann? Gaaaaaay,"
Before Ben, the only gay person my father met through me was Elvis. It was after things had started to go horribly horribly wrong, so Elvis wasn't terribly talky, just terrible. He mostly moped that he was on an expensive resort island and no one was buying him anything. He had a bus ticket home in his not so distant future. My father, like my mother and all my friends, hated him. But unlike my mother and all my friends, he didn't say a word about it. To this day, he's never asked how Elvis was doing or what happened to him. Elvis was there, then he was gone. He probably doesn't even remember the false name Elvis gave him (because if he'd given his real name, who could forget it?).
My dad likes Ben. I know because he called me from Cancun (and my dad NEVER calls me) to small talk and mention that "that Ben kid seemed really nice. Anytime you want to come down to the island together, let me know."
"It's tough to get him out of Boston." Ben says. "But I'll try."
So there is balance to the universe. Ben's dad likes me. My dad likes Ben.
"How come I didn't get to meet him when I came to visit?" My mother asks.
"He was in New York, remember? I had you drop me off at his house so I could feed his cat."
"Well, next week I want you to come down and get all the stuff you want out of the old house so we can put it on the market. You should bring him with you."
Um. Um. Um. Um.