When I was a kid, or just more of a kid than I am now (or maybe less, depending on how you look at it. I should probably just say “when I was biologically younger,” because that’s the most diplomatic way to go about saying it, I think), I was afraid of the dark, so I slept with the light on. People think that helps, and it does, to some extent, but only if your eyes are still open. I don’t sleep with my eyes open. I don’t think I trust people who do, but then again, I’ve never met one. Just for saying that, I’ll probably end up marrying someone who sleeps like that. But that’s not the point at all: the point is that leaving the light on assuages your fears until you fall asleep, but once you close your eyes, it’s all darkness again, so what good is it anyway? For that reason, in addition to leaving the light on, I insisted on another layer of security in my bedroom, which involved my dad, in his pajamas and black socks, lying on the floor next to my bed. I used to think that both of my parents read to me before I went to sleep, but, upon further consideration, I’m fairly certain that it was my dad who did it the majority of the time. Our evening routine, therefore, consisted of him reading aloud, and then taking his spot on the floor.
It was always the same spot. I know this because there was an indentation in the carpet that fit his body perfectly, the sort of evidence that makes crime scene investigators titter with delight. My room was never a crime scene, to my knowledge, unless you consider adolescence a crime, which it is, in some states (not New York). But none of this matters right now: what matters is that my father was willing to sleep on the floor for the better part of five years, forgoing a decent night’s sleep in the company of my mother for the sake of his irrational youngest daughter. You’d think I’d be appreciative, but it’s amazing how stupid we can be. How stupid I can be, I mean. I don’t mean to implicate anyone else in the situation. You’d think I’d recall that indentation on my carpet when, in my stupidity, I’d spit words so sharp that it’s a wonder my mouth wasn’t bleeding by the end of it all.
I’d say that, as children, we take every injustice so personally, but that’s true of most adults I know, too. “It’s not fair!” was my mantra. “Life isn’t always fair,” was my father’s. I was ten years-old. I was an idiot. Not in the same way that I’m an idiot these days, no, that’s a sort of idiothood that I’ve worked to cultivate. I was a kid. I was a kidiot, I guess. That would be a terrible joke, but for something to be a terrible joke, it has to be a joke, first.
We were in Martha’s Vineyard, where we used to spend our summers. It was raining, which seemed to happen a lot there. It made sense to see a movie. It made even more sense to see “The Perfect Storm.” It made even more sense, but only to me, that I should be permitted to see it, despite the age restriction, because I was in the company of my mom and dad and older sister. In my mind, the content of the film wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle. After all, it didn’t seem like it would contain pornography. Porn for a meteorologist, maybe. Or a fisherman. Or an admirer of fisherman, maybe. “It’ll be too intense for you,” my mom said, just before entering the theater with my sister, who, at age 14, was old enough to see John C. Reilly get pierced by a massive fishing hook. “But what will Dad and I do?” I whined. “You can see another movie.” The Edgartown Movie Theater only had two screens, at the time. On this particular day, one screen promised impending doom and crashing waves and a riveting score. The other had Rocky and Bullwinkle. But the fact that I had to sit through a mind-numbing, intelligence-insulting, live-action-meets-animation feature wasn’t what bothered me – I felt like I was being kicked out of the “Girls’ Club,” forced to see a movie with my dad. Which is odd, considering that, due to his work schedule, he could only join us about once a month on Martha’s Vineyard during those summers, so I should have relished the opportunity to spend quality time with the man whose spine was permanently out of shape, thanks to me.
But I was angry, and the smell of popcorn was giving me a headache.
“This is torture, this is torture, this is torture,” I muttered during the previews and into the first twenty minutes of the movie. Dad, not wanting to cause a scene, reached for my hand, in an attempt to give it an affectionate squeeze. I swatted it away. I kicked the back of the seat in front of me. No one was sitting there, anyway. I sighed emphatically. I pulled at my hair and grinded my teeth, because that’s the way agony is described in the Bible, and I had a flair for religious dramatics. I kicked my Dad’s shin, hard.
People have a hard time believing that I’m capable of being cruel. But, at age ten, I most certainly was, and at age twenty-one, I most certainly still am.
My dad, the nicest man in the world, looked so defeated.
And I felt bad, at the time, but I figured there was nothing I could do to amend the situation, so I decided to keep up the indignant shtick. As a result, I don’t remember any of the movie’s content, which is a shame, because I’m sure that it had its moments. (That’s a lie, I couldn’t care less about the movie, but I wish that I remembered some of it so I could prove to myself that, if only for five minutes, I wasn’t such a spoiled brat.)
We exited the movie theater in complete silence.
But that jarring post-movie sunlight, you know, it always makes me sneeze.
“God bless you,” he said.