For the next few days it feels like I’m on suicide watch. It feel like I’m 8-years-old all over again – grounded because I got a B in Social Studies. My father and aunt are back at work after taking the rest of that day and the following day off. My uncle won’t say so but I can tell, he’s under strict orders to not let me leave the house. I’m not even allowed to go down to the corner to buy a newspaper (for the comics and crossword).
This might bother me but it isn’t like I have the desire to leave. Nearly two weeks in and the trip is working up to be a total sham. Every day it is ninety plus degrees out (it feels like the humidity could be nearing the same number) and it even feels as though the central air is having a hard time keeping up. My uncle always has this glossy sheen about him and if I move at more than a brisk walk in the house I’m sweating as well. When my uncle did take me out to buy a paper I was sweating instantly. I’m not built for this kind of weather.
I did later find out that the reason it took so long for them to find me was because the cab driver waited until his shift was over to come prodding around for his skipped fare.
For lack of anything else to do I’m nearing the end of all of the books I brought with me. Both those assigned by school and the ones I wanted to read or re-read. I’ll have to get to a book store somehow.
Whenever someone attempts to speak to me I leave the room in the biggest display of self-pity that I can muster. You know this feeling: you let all the strength leave your body and flop about, as though you were a rag doll, head on your chest. You lie your body precariously in really noticeable places waiting for someone to ask whats wrong. It’s pathetic and no one ever asks. Not that I would answer, it would ruin the perfect mope.
One such instance took place on a Friday evening. I’ve placed myself under the staircase so that anyone going up or down would have to notice me. I was reading Tales of the Jazz Age, a half-boring collection of short stories where Fitzgerald tries to win your attention by being dramatic, when my father walked in the front door. He walked toward the kitchen while my eyes moved over the same paragraph again and again. He stationed himself in the door frame, his back facing me, and began recounting his day to my aunt who had been cooking something since she returned from work.
“It was alright,” answered my father. I could only imagine that the question asked was, “How was work?”
“Air and soil sampling,” was another one my father’s answers.
“It’s monotonous work though I get a lot of reading done.”
“I’m in one those one room trailers, no A/C just a tiny desk fan, it is hot for sure. I have to check the readout once every hour so it isn’t anything strenuous. It feels good working on something, you know, this big. It feels like I’m doing something bigger than myself even if it isn’t super important.”
Another murmur from the kitchen indicates that another question had been asked.
He lowers his voice to answer the next question and this was all I heard: “I don’t know – I haven’t really spoken…keeping busy I imagine. Hopefully using the time without…and I…relaxing. Probably busier than ever. You know how it is.”
I clear my throat to get the attention I deserve. After a quick jump and turn of acknowledgment he turns back to the kitchen.
“Alright Emma, I’m gonna grab a quick shower. I’ll be back down for dinner in 10.”
“Thanks again for having us. It means the world to Simon and I. I’m sure as soon as he is off of probation he’ll be enjoying the city – RESPONSIBLY – once again.”
He walked over to me. I pretend not to notice actually pressing my nose further into my book. He toes my leg with his work boots. I look up. He looks tired and maybe it is just my vantage point, from the floor, but he looks taller.
“Hey kiddo, whatcha reading?”
“A story about a giant diamond.”
“Really? I thought he only wrote about immature boys who get drunk all the time and sleep around?”
“Only mostly,” I said.
“So are you ready to leave the apartment?”
“You aren’t grounded Simon, we just want to know where you’ll be.”
“I don’t want to upset anyone.”
He smirks and says, “Well from what I hear about your adventures at school that is anything but the truth. Is that the real reason you won’t leave?”
“I don’t know,” I say, “can’t think of anything that sounds fun.”
“Hmm.” He pulls out his wallet and drops his MetroCard and 1, 2, 3 crisp twenty-dollar bills on my chest. “Go and get unbored.”
I move to a sitting position, “Unbored isn’t a word.”
“Come on Simon.”
“You don’t need to put on the show, your mother isn’t here.” The triumph I was feeling, for him having noticed, was immediately quelled by how upset he looked.
“I don’t know, I’m sorry.”
“Just get out and have a good time. I don’t want to see you inside for the summer. This trip is as much for you as it is for my job. Get in some trouble but don’t tell your Aunt and Uncle, they’ll kill me.”
“Okay I guess.”
“Just give them an idea of where you are and when you might return.”