Yesterday I sat in front of my laptop, idly surfing, typing with one hand and holding a book (My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk) in the other. And my father said I couldn’t multi-task!
And speaking of dad, he and Weiner are sprawled on Weiner’s bed, snoring as loud as possible, as if trying to outdo eachother. It doesn’t annoy me as it does some people, such as my mother. I cannot imagine how she slept and has been sleeping next to him for the past eighteen years.
She’s watching television – the Spanish X factor, by the sounds of horrid singing and reject sobbing coming in from the paper-thin walls. It’s almost eleven, a little later than my regular bedtime, but I figure I can squeeze in a few more minutes of reading before dad emerges from the bedroom and yells at me to go to sleep.
Unfortunately, it was not be so. Three minutes before eleven, my mother screams. Loud.
We in the household are used to my mom’s shrill tone, her ability to scale octaves faster than some opera singers. She uses it often and without any pity for people’s eardrums. It is a talent passed on to my brother (he makes use of it quite effectively). My dad and I can only sit and plug our ears.
For a few minutes I ignore her, rolling my eyes. She must have seen a woman she once knew on a commercial, or a paticularly revealing Tampax ad. A few minutes later she screams again, my name this time, and so I unglue my eyes from the screen and stumble to our living room.
"Look! Look!" She says, pointing towards the television. I turn my head, and see an elderly, sixty-something man in a dark gray suit too small for him. He is short, and squat but in an oddly endearing way. His hands are clasped behind his back, head slightly bowed.
"It’s the New Yorker!" She exclaims, looking at me as if I just must remember this.
"Do you remember when you were small and we lived at thirty-seven? There was a bar under our building, and he sang there. You know, the popular songs at the time: Europeanized American ballads and tunes. New Yoork! New Yoork! NEW YOOOOOOORK!" She giggles, an act that belongs to seven-year-old but astonishly suits my mother quite well.
I look at the screen again, suitably interested this time. His limbs stick awkwardly from his sides. A skeleton, with four elbows. A man, from humble begins…a romantic story begins to spin itself in my head, despite myself.
"What’s he doing on the X-Factor?"
"Oh, it’s always been his dream. To sing, and become a somebody. His entire life."
I smile. "Was…Is he good?" I imagine this man, this small, half-smiling man, with the most angelic voice in the world. A voice that would put Merche, the black-haired, unlikable X-Factor judge, to tears.
"Are you kidding? He’s horrible! I have no idea how he’s gotten this far."
I am already enamored by him though, the way children sometimes fall in love with wise, elderly people. He seems to embody so many good things, a creature born into a world that did not deserve him. I watch his slight, almost frightened movements, the elegant nods of his worn head.
I imagine him in a bar, singing karaoke, holding a tune despite the booing from the patrons. I see him wiping his tears as he is blatantly fired from his job, as his wife leaves him. I watch as he sits on a park bench, feeding pigeons, seeing parents avert their children’s eyes from him.
I am vaguely aware of how ridiculous I sound, but the full impact of the feeling only sinks in later, in retrospect. It has always been a fault of mine. Making life sound more romantic that it really is. Reality hidden by the plump comforts of a story.
I go back to the computer, to answer e-mails from my San Fran friends, but return constantly to linger by the living room doorway. During one of these trips I hear my mother sigh.
"They’ve eliminated him." She says, appearing indifferent. I can hear the undercurrent of pity, though.
I look at the way his face falls. The wrinkles in his face, more pronounced.
And suddenly, for the most ridiculous of reasons, for the plight of a man I have known for five minutes, my heart cracks. And breaks.