Neither side was right or wrong
September 29, 2012
A friend. She was an immigrant’s daughter. She was beautiful. Intelligent. Funny. And angry. When she moved in with me, her parents said that she was dead to them. (We weren’t lovers, just friends, but details had nothing to do with it. Appearance is what was important. They were ashamed. Neither side was right or wrong. It was just the gulf between the two generations.
THE THAT DAUGHTER RANT
Its that. I can’t stand it. I started boxing my ears. Keep all that shit out. Everything is money. My father is all. Business. I cannot stand it. What is it. Money. Given up for time. For my father, always it is money. At dinner he counts the mouthfuls. How much must he take in. Minimum. To work all day. He belches with glee. The only time he is happy. I squirm. He asks me. He laughs. I’d like to stick an umbrella up. His urethro.
“What’s the matter, my only daughter?”
“That,” I reply. Imagining that anger is not the only reaction to boredom. My analyst keeps prodding me for details about. My sleeping habits.
Look at his plate. The cost of a sad potato. Bought on discount. Ready to turn into mud. And the vegetables. Carrots soft before they dive into the soup. And the meat. More gristle. More salt. From the local butcher. In our neighbourhood there are no cats. There must be other ways to cut corners. Cannibalism comes to mind.
Father has mother bill him for the meal. Everything goes in the book. It’s like eating in a restaurant. Without the tip. And of course father compares our prices to those at the Canadiana Restaurant. Looking at the savings seems to help father’s digestion.
Our father will not eat Indian food. He says that we must become more Canadian. He says that we smell. Like what we eat. And we must smell Canadian. But my mother cannot cook spaghetti. Or stuffed heart. The thought of eating a heart makes my mother faint. Or Irish stew. What is Irish stew anyway? Leprechauns boiling in laughter.
“And father makes us listen to the Beatles. My mother tries. She sings along with the song, With a little help from my friends. But she cannot get it right. She doesn’t understand the song. Why is it friends? She asks. Why isn’t it, family? And father makes us watch ice hockey. Field hockey, I can understand. I made the school team but father would not come out and watch us play. We are Canadians, he said. F*** the field. Play on ice.
Well, he didn’t say the ‘f’ word. But he wanted to. It’s Canadian. Mother gets very upset when she hears father curse. He said we had to learn. To speak Canadian. They use the ‘f’ word in every other sentence. My mother tried to use it. One time she used it. At the small Indian grocery store she likes to shop in. The manager got very upset with her.
“You must leave,” he said.
Mother told him to go ‘f himself.
She told my father. He got angry with her.
“Why do you use that language around our people? he said.You want to ruin my business!”
You cannot win with my father. It’s that. Which bothers me. But more.
My father forces me to work. For him. At slave wages. Under intolerable circumstances. Without texting.
Paul told me to call the Ministry of Labour. Paul works next door in the pharmacy. A sweet boy. He will be my lover one day. He comes over to talk to me. When father is not around. We mess around with my hair. He likes to stick his tongue in my ear. Paul is my own little Q Tip. I’d like to examine the rest of his alphabet. That. Won’t happen if my father has his way.
Father has taken to meeting some friends. Canadian friends. Or so he brags to us. Over dinner. At the Canadian Restaurant. He meets them. Which he does not tell mother. Mother thinks that the friends are customers. In the shop. I do not tell my mother. It offends me not to tell her. And its that. I can smell the beer off father. When he returns. Sometimes he drinks so much that he takes a nap. On one of the sofas in the back of the store. When Paul visits he ask me.
“Does your father hit you?”
“Of course, he does not. Father is pathetic, but he is not a monster.”
Sometimes Paul and I fool around. Nothing serious. Kissing mostly. And feeling each others. Ups and downs. Outside our clothes. Never under. Paul says that he wants to see me naked. He has never seen naked brown skin. I don’t know how he dares to talk like that. But I like it. Sort of. I tell him that that is definitely not going to happen. This month. The word ‘that’ has replaced using the word ‘sex’ between Paul and I. I don’t know what I would do if father walked in. On us as we were fooling around. He’d probably be pissed that I wasn’t at the cash register. In case someone came in. Who buys couches in the middle of the day? In the middle of the week?
When Paul asks me questions, he writes everything I say down in a book. Another book. Like my father’s book. I asked him what he was doing. He said he likes to record other people’s thoughts. But those were not my thoughts, I tell him. I have one thought. And that’s that.