Are you serious? You have the temerity to ask me if I am sleeping? Seriously? If, for a moment, you thought that I was sleeping, why in hell would you jostle me and then ask me if I was sleeping? And how many times do I have to tell you that I never liked the name John. I am Jack and you know damned well that is what I want to be called, by everyone. It is not that hard. Here’s a hint, I was sleeping until you woke me. You realize if we weren’t family what I would be doing to you right now. But mom and dad would have a fit, so just consider yourself lucky, but know that someday I will get even with you. Remember I was there when you were a baby, so I have seen it all. And if the bells didn’t wake me, why should I care if they are ringing? Answer me that. Now go away, preferably forever.
For years all I wanted was a working familial cloaking device. The kind the Romulans had in the early days of Star Fleet. It was easy to feel overwhelmed amid them, teaming together for holidays, reunions. I never could, I never did disappear though she felt my sometime silence oppressive. Now that I am part of that admixture, I have found the device and cannot for the life of me figure out how to turn it off in the presence of my own too small and shrinking family.
Mom died, the text message read, similar words we’ve been hearing too frequently but always leaving us with the same hopelessness. The words my brother, estranged now, estranged then, come to think of it, said two years ago in a quickly left phone message. I thought of confronting him, but when he never answered, I knew I couldn’t say what I needed in a text message. When my mother-in-law died my wife and I were there, watched as she took her final breath, easy, calm, as if to say, this passage is easier than I thought given all the time I asked God to let me take it. We didn’t feel helpless that day, more like silent observers, standing on the pier as the ship slipped into a vast ocean on the maiden voyage a very new sort.
She moves with the fluidity that suggests she has been trained as a dancer, though she denies it, says that she has no interest in dance, barely tolerates music and then only because it sometimes is a requirement. She smiles, though it doesn’t seem at all natural to her, more another thing she does because she believes is quite often required. Hers is a life of requirements and she strives to be compliant, choosing to hide a seething passion deep within, for it terrifies her: this is what she was taught by her mother, how she survived four older brothers, a father who feared his reflection in the whiskey bottle and quickly erased it,, the devil deal with consequences, the pain on her mother’s face, she often too slow to duck. She knows the day is coming when he will be repaid by her, and she hopes no one she loves is near Ground Zero.