“Come and eat!”
Daddy and I walked into the house, covered in dirt and carrying grease stained take-out bags from Nguyen’s Diner. We had just spent the entire Saturday mowing lawns at the gated community outside of Holton, and if I put a hand to forehead I fould feel the sunburnt skin peeling but, nevertheless, I felt great. I liked working with dad. It made me feel important. Useful, like I was contributing, in my own small way, to the effort of putting food on our family’s table.
Plus, unlike Diana, who preferred staying in the clean, air conditioned house I liked getting dirty and I liked working with my hands. In a complicated world, trailing behind behind my father with a leaf blower while he mowed lawns was perfectly simple. Right up until the moment we’d arrive home.
Diana skipped in from the living with a book crooked underneath an arm and sat at the table. Mom shuffled in after her, wearing her uniform from the hotel, her hair still in a tight bun and sat down as well. When Diana reached into the bag for a french fry, she smacks her hand away.
“Who do you think you are?” my mother says. “Putting your hands on the food before everybody else? We haven’t even said the prayer yet. Your father bought the food. Did you ask if he wanted any before you went ahead and served yourself? What about me? I work all day, did you wait until I got any? What about your little sister? No. You went right ahead and helped yourself.”
“Oh, Maribel, leave her alone,” my father tears the bags open and places a burger on each of our plates.
“No, Rigo, your daughter thinks she’s a goddamn princess. Sits in the room all day doing not a god dam thing. Goddamn Princess Diana. You want to eat first? Here you go, Princess.”
My mother grabs a handful of fries and throws them, one by one, at Diana’s face. My sister’s expression, which up until this point had been blank, contorts into a wince before she chokes out a sob and sprints out of the kitchen. The bedroom door slams and I look up for the first time to find Daddy glaring across the table at my mother, his left hand balled into a fist infront of him. He clears his throat and keeps his gaze on her when he speaks.
“Carmen, go to your room.”
The sentence isn’t even finished before I’m already leaving the table. I run into the bedroom mine and Diana’s room, where she is laying in a ball underneath the covers of the bottom bunk. I close the door, grab a pillow from the top bunk, then sit cross-legged on the floor with the pillow over my ears. I’ve weathered the oncoming storm enough times to know when to seek shelter. Like clockwork, my parent’s voices blare from the kitchen and through the walls of the bedroom.
“I don’t like the way you speak to my daughters, Maribel.”
“Oh, your daughters?”
“It isn’t right.”
“Well, I’ve had it with Diana. Getting fired from the movie theater becuase her register was short again…”
“Well, so what? She can find another job.”
“The dummy can’t even count money right!”
“You don’t call her that, Maribel…”
“Well, she better change and fast because I’m not supporting her. The day she turns eighteen, she’s out of here!”
“The only person in this house who needs to change is you!”
“Fine, keep defending them. Oh sure, they can’t get enough of you, they’re angels when they’re around you…”
“They respect me because they know I respect them, because when they speak, I listen, and if I wrong them, I apologize. Can you say the same?”
“Well, we can’t all be perfect like you, Rigo. So so perfect, aren’t you? Preaching at us all while…where are you going?”
The unmistakable of sound of keys being snatched off the kitchen counter.
“I’ll be back later.”
“Where are you going?!”
“WHERE I GO IS MY BUSINESS!”
I put the pillow over my ears and start rocking back and forth back and forth back and forth. Diana comes out from under the covers and looks at me. She gets up and grabs her walkman off the dresser, then comes over to where I’m rocking.
She gets on her knees and places the headphones over my ears, presses play then sets the walkman in my lap. Rhapsody in Blue floods into my ears. The only CD we had in the house was a Gershwin CD Diana got from her clarinet teacher at school to practice along with. It was a good effort, but still isn’t enough to drown out the yelling in the kitchen.
“I CAN GO WHERE I GOD DAMN PLEASE, MARIBEL!”
“IF YOU LEAVE THIS HOUSE, THEN DON’T EVER COME BACK!”
Diana goes over to the closet, digs around and pulls out the DSLR camera she got the christmas before, which she had asked for so she could take pictures of her senior year. She goes over to the bedroom window that looks out to the backyard, slides it open and waves me over. Carrying the walkman, I get up and stand beside her.
“Here,” she puts the camera in my hand, points out the window and up at the sky. “Look into the lens, Carmen,” she says. “Point it up at the sky. What do you see?”
I look into the camera’s lens.
“Kind of like your very own telescope, right?”
“Listen; I’m not gonna hang around this town forever, Carmen. So, if things ever get too loud around here, just take this-” she points at the camera. “Point it up at the stars. It’ll make everything else go quiet. I promise.”