Chapter 34 – Wasting my life? (Los Angeles)
Despite the two-hour flight delay and the fact that it’s still quite cold in Los Angeles―we’ve had a pleasant winter in Las Vegas, I admit, but getting out of the desert means almost returning to the harsh reality of the variable American climate―Camille and I arrived on my grandparents’ front porch barely ten minutes late. It’s located near the beach, with great views of Santa Monica Bay. I love this place, I’ve always liked it and I have good memories―carefree summers swimming in the sea, dinners at the edge of the sand…
As if she could guess my thoughts―I’m smiling like an idiot so it shouldn’t be difficult_-Camille takes my hand and imitates me. I put my arm around her shoulders and kiss her temple before climbing the first step.
Inside, as I imagined, it smells super great. I think my grandmother has made goat balls again and I can’t help but chuckle when I remember the look on Sean’s face when he found out what they were made of. Camille, on the other hand, has her nose slightly furrowed because she doesn’t like the smell of cooked meat, but she immediately shows a wide smile as soon as my grandmother comes out of the kitchen to welcome us with open arms.
“My children!” She says with obvious pride before hugging us and kissing our cheeks almost at the time. “How I have missed you! How was Vegas?”
“All right, baba,” I answer in the same vein. “It’s not too cold this winter, but it’s still nice to work inside,” I joke afterward.
She laughs, and right away my grandpa shows up to greet us too. However, the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I realize that two people should be here and have not yet made an appearance. They are both waiting for us in the kitchen. My mother, with a smile that seems a bit forced―or my nerves sense it so, at least―comes over to greet us. But my father remains leaning against the counter. And frankly, if gazes could kill, I think I’d be a pile of ashes on the kitchen floor right now.
We’ve barely spoken since I left for Las Vegas almost three months ago to work. What I did know ahead of time was that quitting my job as an engineer wasn’t going to make him happy.
“I see you were able to come at last,” he says in passing.
The picture, if you couldn’t cut the tension with a knife, would be almost comical. The six of us in the kitchen making a circle, with my father and I facing each other at opposite ends of the room.
“Robert, please…”, my mother asks him.
But he, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to hear it. And I’m not ready to organize a battle over a trifle either.
“Leave it, Mum,” I said without turning to her and neither taking my eyes off my father. “I knew he wouldn’t understand.”
I want to turn around to get out of the kitchen, but his angry laugh is holding me back.
“Of course I don’t understand it, Robert,” I clench my fists at my first name, but I refrain from answering right away―I want to know what he has to say. Which almost makes me lose what little self-control I have left. “I’d have to be crazy to understand a decision like that.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Camille put a hand to her mouth with a moan. My mother, for her part, tries to keep the spirits up.
“Robert, please,” she repeats, supplicant. “Today’s not the day…and you know it.”
To which my father raises his head and, without changing his face, replies:
“For once in months my son deigns to come before me, I think it’s time.”
Camille puts her hand down and opens her mouth to protest, but I stop her as gently as I can. She looks at me as if she doesn’t understand anything, but immediately sees under my silent request―I don’t want her to see this. And my grandma, also sensing what I want, takes her gently by the hand and brings her out of the kitchen. My grandfather follows them, not before sending a warning glance to my father that he seems to ignore. Only my mother remains a spectator, but she refuses to leave.
“You know that’s not fair, Robert” She blames my father.
“No, he doesn’t”, I interrupt then, hurt, to the surprise of both of us.
When he gets over the surprise, my father finally shows all his anger.
“How dare you, ungrateful brat?” He explodes, not caring about the tone of voice and ignoring my mother’s request not to scream. “We gave up everything so that you could have everything. Not so that…”, he makes a derogatory gesture that hurts me more than I can admit, “you would waste your life.”
His statement is like a kick in the stomach.
Wasting my life… How wrong you are.
“Surely”, I counterattack h with irony, to his surprise―what did he think? That I would kneel to ask his forgiveness and return to the fold like a little lost sheep? Not. “So, let’s get this straight… If I’m working on something I like, earning and saving enough money not to worry about making ends meet and I’m gonna be married within a year…Yeah, well. I guess I’m wasting my life, Dad, then. Thanks for pointing it out.”
And without paying attention to the gesture of absolute perplexity of my two parents at the news of my wedding, I turn around and leave the house slamming the door. My arms are shaking, so I decide to lean on the porch and cross them. Am I… disappointed? Yeah, I think that’s the word. I can’t believe that my parents, despite everything, aren’t able to be happy for me and see that I am an independent person. And yeah, we were going to tell them that we were getting married at midnight but…
I shake my head in defeat. Everything has gone wrong. And all I want to do is get out of here as soon as possible. But at that moment, my mother appears behind me and puts a hand on my arm. I barely have the strength to raise my head and look at her face.
“Moose”, she calls me, making my soul break.
They never wanted to call me that, and now they do?
“Honey, I know you’re angry, but understand your father’s position. He only wants what’s best for you…”
I clench my fists and look away again.
“And you both can’t tell that I already have it?” I mumble, trying not to cry too.
At that moment, my mother hugs me completely. And I, after a millisecond of hesitation, give her back the gesture.
“We love you, Moose. Don’t you ever forget that.”
I’m not up for this so I slowly separate myself from her, mumble a ‘thank you, Mum’ and head inside the house. Without looking almost to the kitchen, I choose to go straight up to the bedroom. And it breaks my heart to see Camille there.
She’s turned towards the window, sitting on the windowsill, and when she looks at me I see that she’s been crying. When she gets up, I approach her and embrace her with infinite love. It’s what sustains my whole life, but I don’t need anything else. So, after kissing her wet eyelids, I murmur with all my emotions contained in four words:
“Merry Christmas, my love.”
Because if I’m with her, Christmas will always be happy. No matter what happens.
Mind you, we’re going back to Vegas tomorrow without looking back.