It is 1:25 in the morning. I am with my family in Vegas for Thanksgiving. My parents have been arguing on and off for the past twelve hours. Or really for the past twenty-eight years.
Three months ago, after the huge weekend meltdown, I told my parents to stop arguing in front of me. If they feel the urge coming on, they can alert me and I will sprint out the door. Then they can bicker as much as they'd like.
Today over lunch, my parents discussed paying respects to my grandparents' resting places. They disagreed over who said what. My mother turned to my dad and said, "If you insist on doing this, I will never forgive you!" I raced out the door.
I came back half an hour later, when my dad was preparing to take my brother to the airport. My mom was still shouting. I packed up my suitcase and plopped it down on the kitchen linoleum. "I'm going to the airport too," I said. "I'm changing my flight and flying back with Tom."
"No!" my dad said, and rushed over to block me with his arm. "You have to stay. Stay the rest of the weekend!"
Such a display of emotion from my dad made me freeze with discomfort. I retreated to the living room, where I talked with my mother for an hour. I told her how painful it is to watch them argue.
"I didn't realize this counts as arguing! I thought it was just loud talking!" she said.
She promised there would be no more arguing, now that she understood what I meant. We re-installed Windows XP on my parents' laptop. They analyzed who caused the system to get clogged with viruses. It was my mother for downloading chinese toolbars. No, it was my dad for clicking on pop-up ads. No, it was my mother for typing on it fourteen hours a day. No, it was my dad for traversing unsafe web pages.
Two hours later, my dad asked me to install the printer on their desktop computer. I went to use the internet and it was dog slow. The desktop is five years old. Why don't they get a new one, I ask? Great idea, says my dad. No, no, my mother insisted, the internet slowness is just a fluke. She just used it again and it's fast. Go try it now! My dad sighed. "She's at it again! You just watch, she's going to use all her tricks to prevent from spending money on a new computer!"
and on and on and on.
At midnight my dad said, "This time, you're not leaving. I am." He stalked out of the room, and I heard the creaking of the garage door as it opened.
"What can I do?" my mom said, tears leaking out of her eyes. She gathered a napkin and wadded it in her hand. "Your dad keeps all the money. I don't want us to spend this much money on a computer."
I picked up the nearest book, Design Patterns, and clobbered myself on the head with it four times. I thought it would hurt but it didn't. It imparted a numbness that spread from the crown of my head down to the base of my neck.
My mom told me that it grieves her that I never call home. The only thing that gives her joy now is her church. But my dad won't let her donate to the church, and she feels guilty. She wasn't trying to start an argument, and she doesn't see why I am so upset. Her whole heart is focused on being good to her children.
"Then why are you causing me so much pain?" I said, yanking the roots of my hair in each fist. The crown of my head started to ache from where I hit it with the book, and the numbness spread to my shoulders. I began to fear that I did permanent damage to my brain by issuing blows to it.
"Fine, then maybe I will leave. Maybe I will devote the rest of my life to the church."
"You go and do that," I said, hating myself for the cruelty, hating her for the manipulation.
I escaped to my bedroom. My mother followed, knocking until I let her in. Another hour of hashing out why she was just trying to explain her viewpoint, how my dad won't let her access the money, how I should change myself so that this won't hurt me any more, how everyone's parents fight and this is normal.
Finally she sulked out of my room. I sit on the bed, googling to see if a head injury might create delayed effects that show up months later.
I am sapped. Why does everything in this house have to be so much fucking drama?