The house is directly in front of the boardwalk. With the windows wide open and the door practically hanging off its hinges, all the passerby can peek into our living room and watch us in very the spirit of a Disney movie. We’d make a picture perfect family if Alex were wearing a shirt, if I consented to eating with silverware and if my mother would stop reading all the depressing newspaper headlines out loud.
“Five-year-old dead in a boating accident!” With her soft tsk tsks and her grumbles of momentary dissatisfaction my mother reminds me of a funeral harpy, tiptoeing into a church and sobbing over a coffin before reaching in to grab a particularly nice tie, a bouquet of chrysanthemums. A necrophiliac. A macabre twist to the suburban yard sale junkie.
My father perks up and, obviously feeling compelled to add something to the conversation, mutters: “A helicopter collided with an airplane in New York! Nine dead.”
“Soccer star found dead from cardiac arrest!” choruses my mother.
“Taiwan suffers its worst flooding in half a century!” chirrups my father.
Alex is completely absorbed in his food, hunched over, gnawing at the chicken like some sort of prehistoric creature. The Coca-Cola he’s drinking is beginning to reach his bloodstream – his cheeks have an unnatural flush to them, his limbs a surreal movement. A caffeine maniac with hands curled around the drink. Bouncing his chair, a boy of elastic.
My father looks behind him, towards the parking lot, where our Honda resides.
‘”It’s lucky it didn’t get towed this morning.” He says, apparently switching from worldwide news to more familiar territory.
‘”You bet it is,” my mother grumbles, shaking a raised fist. ”If I hadn’t gone out there and insisted they take off the clamp…” She narrows her eyes at the imaginary policemen sitting on our couch. “Harrumph.”
The radio starts playing Lady GaGa’s “Love Game”, quite possibly the most awkward song to have to listen to with your conventional parents at dinnertime, in front of the twenty people promenading across the boardwalk. A woman pushing along a stroller turns to look at us – we, in our raggedy bathing suits, chewing tacos, surrounded by my grandmother’s collection of mounted dinner plates while Lady GaGa croons I WANNA TAKE A RIDE ON YOUR DISCO STICK (Dear God). Who can really blame her for averting her gaze so quickly and walking briskly away?