26 December 2016

What's the damage

Here is the backside of the coasters from my previous post.

Dear diary,

Trials that have happened since my last confession are one sibling’s birthday party and Christmas.

By the way, I’m writing this on the morning of December 26, and it poured rain all yestreen (“I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas…”); then overnight the temp fell below zero Celsius; so when I looked outside just now, I saw a thin layer of ice covering everything: our car doors were nearly frozen shut; and the garage door made a crackly noise when unsticking itself from the ground. My fear is that the roads are too slippery to drive on, so I told my sweetheart to call me when she arrives at her destination (she’s heading to the mini-mall for exercise class right now); otherwise I’ll worry that she spun out. I’ll let you know if she makes contact.

Mother, sister, brother, sister-in-law, domestic partner, and me: there are six members in my immediate family. Seven, if you count my father: he’s still alive, but he’s in a home for disabled veterans (he has full-blown dementia; he needs help with everything: he can’t even feed himself), so that’s why he doesn’t come bowling with us.

We went bowling for my sister’s birthday. That was her request. She chose a small place in the city which was half bar, half alley. As I feared, we all had to rent footwear. My size is eleven. The shoes they gave me were the color of a newborn fawn. Now the problem was that this place only allowed a maximum of five people per lane; so we, being a party of six, had to play two separate, simultaneous games of three players apiece. Of course, neither game paid any attention to the other; thus our glee was bisected, and the event was a flop.

Furthermore, the music that kept pulsing over the intercom (I use this inexact word purposely: for the sonic quality was so poor that it seemed like a bullhorn or squawk box for making public addresses, rather than a genuine sound system) – over the commotion of the other bowling parties, this music was not loud enough for us to hear what song was playing, but it was too loud for us to understand anything that anyone was trying to say. So I spent the night gesturing ambiguously in response to misunderstood shouts.

And I’m a weakling, so I prefer a light bowling ball, but my fingers will only fit the big-league sizes.

Overall, the festivity was an endurance test for me. But there were a couple of silver linings. Although my ball was way too heavy, its color pleased me: it was translucent emerald. Also, we parked across the street from that city’s local library; and I love libraries, so this fact soothed me – it felt like a good omen. The place was closed, but its walls were glass, and the interior lights were aglow, for the workers were vacuuming. Standing outside and watching them weave among the bookshelves was like contemplating a brief silent postmodern ballet.

Near the start of this entry, I said “I’ll let you know if she makes contact”; so now I’m telling you, my sweetheart just sent me a text: “Made it safe & happy, no prob!!!!!!!” Gadzooks, that was fast.

Ah yes, and Christmas. What to say about Christmas. We were instructed by my mother to meet up with the rest of the family at her house any time after noon, and a beef stew will be ready for supper. I said to my sweetheart: “Let us wait until four of the clock before casting off.” I only wanted to avoid being the first fools to show up at the gathering; I don’t like waiting there awkwardly trying to make conversation with people who hate my guts. So I passed the morning with reading and the noon with more reading. Being almost finished with a few books that I’d been tackling in tandem (two political titles, and one wild novel), I was able to reach the end of each with ease; and this gave me a feeling of accomplishment which greatly improved my anti-Santa attitude.

We pulled up outside my mom’s house at a little after four, and the driveway was empty. We were the first to arrive. “Don’t stop,” I told my sweetheart; “just drive past and go around the block a couple times until we see someone else show up.” But as we were hesitating in mid-decision, all of the exterior lights of the house turned on. Assuming this meant that my mom had spotted us, we bowed to fate, parked, and went inside.

“Are we the only ones here?” I asked.

“Yeah,” my mom said, “I don’t think anyone really wants to do this.”

“Where’s Susan?” (Susan is my sister; she lives with my mom.)

“She’s downstairs sleeping. She taught yoga this morning; and when she came back, she went right to sleep. She’s been sleeping all day.”

Mercifully, at this point my brother and his wife showed up. And my sister emerged from her bedroom holding her phone.

I’m sure I’ve explained this to you before, but let me say it again. Every time you see my sister, she has her phone with her. It’s an oversized cream-colored rectangle with rounded edges. She’s always obsessing over this device, always scrolling through pictures and swiping its screen with her finger. Her eyes do not leave her phone when she talks to you in person. And she takes forever vocalizing sentences, because, after every phrase of speech, she must pause to reply to all the instant messages that her friends keep sending her on all the social networks. My sister just turned twenty-eight, and she’s been acting the way I’ve described here since Pong was invented. I hope I do not unduly stress this aspect of my sister’s character; but it frustrates me, and I felt it was worth a tangent. One of the only advantages of keeping a weblog that nobody reads is that you can reveal harsh truths about people with impunity.

What else happened on Christmas? We all gathered to eat. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink… (Matt. 25:35) Having been on an early-bird schedule that day, I was an hungred; but apparently nobody else felt the same, for they were all idling around the kitchen, speaking of worldly things that do not matter. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:21) So I left that place and went into the next room to dine.

I dined alone, imagining myself a king. I dimmed the lights very low, the way they do in upscale restaurants (or in downscale ones; I guess both use the same sleight-of-hand techniques). I had finished by the time everyone else entered in with their plates of food; so I was able to act as the gadfly of dinner conversation. My mom repeated some remark that she heard on a popular right-wing radio show, and I asked “Is there anything that [that radio host] could say that would make you lose faith in him? Is there a line that he could not cross; or would you follow him anywhere?” But her answer got drowned out by wisecracks and banter. Then my sister left the room and returned with a stack of books to show our sister-in-law; and I asked if I could look at them too. They were all about spirit energy and goddesses, self-help with self-love, and alternative therapeutic practices like medicinal buggery. Now this was kind of interesting, because our mom is a puritanical Christian who distrusts pleasure. (I first wrote “abhors pleasure” but softened it.) I asked my mom what she thinks of all this new-age sis-boom-bah. She said she just hopes it leads her daughter to Jesus.

Then we all retired to the living room to play a couple card games. The first game went like so: Each of us was given a card from a stack. The card had an either-or question written on it. Privately we were to make a note of our answer to this question, and then everyone else was to guess which way they thought that we had answered. A correct guess would earn a single point; and the first player to earn five points was the winner. Here’s an example: I got a card that said “Would you rather be invisible or invincible?” Everyone guessed that I would choose the latter, but I chose the former. When they asked me why I did this, I said: “I’d prefer to be invisible so that I could spy on people.” And my brother said: “But you could spy on people even without being invisible.” And I said, “Yeah, but then I’d probably get caught, because they could see me.” So that game was a blast. And the next game was similar, but more creative. Again, it was played with cards. All players were to stand and measure their height, and the shortest player was to get strapped with the task of dealing. The first card drawn…

I can’t continue telling about these games. They were nice to play, but they’re tedious to report about. Pretend I ended this better.

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