Page 40 - WTP Vol. XI #5
P. 40

The Failure (continued from preceding page)
“It yelled at someone,” Brother said. She looked very
the spark turning black as it disappeared into my gravity. All was sucking inward on itself and falling into an infinite, empty, colorless abyss. I turned to Mother and Father and saw the fear in their eyes at my silence. I nodded.
 “I didn’t yell, I was making a joke and it didn’t come out right.”
“I did not scream.” “It screamed.”
“I’m going to go out,” I said, hoping this sounded natural, hugging them on my way into the mudroom.
It was supposed to be a self-deprecating joke: when I recognized their judgement of me was all in my head, I thought saying fuck you anyway would demonstrate how laughably far-off from reality my perceptions could be—I considered it a funny performance, say- ing the stupid thing I had just refrained from saying because it was stupid. Yet I got so excited to see the comedic moment arrive—t was through comedy that I would redeem my shame, I was sure of that—that I naively disregarded how the tennis players couldn’t possibly know the context on which my little joke depended. But what really sunk the punchline was how I got so excited that I couldn’t control the volume of my voice. I was like a rocket blowing up on the launchpad. A nice, fun, fuck you anyway, could really work if everyone in the room was on the same page vis a vis the context of self-deprecation.
It was around 8pm. I took our Ford to Waltham, twenty minutes inbound to Boston down the high- way. I liked Waltham. It was a station on the com- muter rail, and in easier times, before the last Harry Potter came out, I’d sit with friends on the purple train watching the town center pass on our way into the city to buy CDs at Newbury Comics. These days, I had spent most nights since Easter around Belmont, Arlington, Waltham, Lexington, each town with an immutable association—music lessons, travel teams, SAT prep, Harvest festivals. I liked going to small cafes in neighboring towns where I had good memo- ries, but didn’t know anybody.
After dinner I stood washing dishes looking out on the dark river. The window reflected the open room with the couch against the far wall. Mom stood thinking, black hair falling out of her scrunchie in wisps while
In Waltham town center I locked the truck and pushed my hands into my pockets for courage. I crossed the street to the cafe, opened the door to
the chatter inside. An oldish man stood beside his stool in the corner at the bar by the wall with an indoor leafy tree behind him, wearing a long coat and rain hat. He looked important. I sat at the bar and watched him. He was reading the Economist print edition, spread beside his glass. I recognized the formatting and red colophon. I was addicted to the Economist before the events of the spring. I had read it cover to cover every week. It was savory, like bread, the journal of the world’s daily life: logistics; container shipping; power grids; household bills; international relations; new mineral deposits; forest conservation; exciting new species and great new books; difficult decisions for the betterment of future generations; clean streets and health codes; riches and wealth; poverty and debasement; race rela- tions and culture wars; political fights and common causes; sewer anomalies and new energy solutions; local elections and what they portended for wider society in the coming years; pensioners choosing stocks; heating homes in winter and public pools in summer. I had loved the Economist. But interest in the world’s daily life, I discovered, was predicated on a foundation of health, self-respect, and honest work. I hoped to be able to enjoy it again in the future.
I cleared our plates and ran water through my hands at the sink. The front door opened, the heavy knocker resonating through the house. Dad’s footsteps crossed the carpet, cheerfully humming into the kitchen.
He pulled a stool from under the island and sat down. Some of the subtle harmony between Mom and me had returned after several tense weeks and he could feel we were peaceful.
“Are you going to Town Meeting this week?” Dad said to me.
I laid a pot face down on the cloth beside the sink and scrubbed the stainless-steel pan, looking through
the window to the dark river. To be a voter, to go to Town Meeting, was there anything more pleasant and normal?
I moved the faucet handle around the sink clearing the suds. In the river a deep gold spark wavered on the black current passing under the bridge lamppost;
The young pudgy bartender with green eyeshadow set down my whiskey without saying anything, coldly refusing to greet me, I assumed, because she was a

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