I wanted to kill them, my uncle and aunt, as they bared their teeth like hyenas to laugh at the photo on my mantelpiece. My friend Marc and his new husband Phillip, in tasteful blue and brown suits,pants rolled up, barefoot in the tide line. The photo represented a triumphover a childhood of vicious bullying followed by years of subtle but powerfullypainful ostracism.
My aunt and uncle laughing together, whispering like small children, “gays!”
I wanted to kill them. Or at least hurt them very badly. I thought of hurling a chair.
Sometimes I get really mad at people, and feel they are responsible for everything that is wrong with the world. Nobody realizes this about me because I don’t make a lot of noise. I bristle, which is something you have to be listening for, like snakes in the grass.
I don’t like French nouvelle cuisine. It’s gross and not even good for you. Rich food for rich bores. But nobody asks me for my opinion.
A few months ago my friend Claire and I planned to meet at a vegetarian restaurant, but then this guy Jamie, her friend and my acquaintance, called Claire and asked her to change our plans for him. He was coming in fromToronto and wanted to see us, and also drop in at the French restaurant where he used to work.
I spent the evening bristling. There was nothing for Claire, a vegetarian, to eat, and Jamie kept getting mad at me for not eating the pretentious food correctly. For example, a custardy goop with a name like a long French sentence was served in something like a test tube. I decided to share it with the others, and began to spoon some of it out on a plate.
Jamie shook his head, closed his eyes and moaned nooooo.
I wished I had a magic carpet. I would whisk him away to Haiti where people literally eat dirt pancakes for supper.
When I was a child, a teacher wrote on my report card: “She has a keen sense of justice.”
And injustice. Just because I hit my head doesn’t mean I don’t remember what happened. Russell had lied, and now our mothers were laughing at me at thehospital. We had been in the playground. Russell’s mother was across the street, making lunch. Russell was in charge of us because hewas the big boy. I was having a perfectly good time, happy on the swing, wiggling my toes so that my flip-flops would just almost fall off, and wiggling them back up my feet again, looking at the sky and wondering how close I could get. Suddenly, Russell rudely pulled my swing to a halt and announced that Baden and I were going to go on the teeter-totter.
“Because Baden wants to, and I am too big.”
“I’m too big too.”
“Only a little. I have a Plan.”
Russell made me sit on the teeter-totter. He pulled the other side down and put Baden on it. With a rock beside his bum.
I wasn’t sure about this. I wondered where he’d got the rock. From somewhere else in the park, probably. I wondered if this was stealing.
Russell let go. Baden swung up, and the rock flew straight across and hit my head.
Russell told everyone that he had been playing patty-cake with Baden when he noticed me lying in a puddle between the teeter-totter and the drinking fountain, asleep, with blood in my hair. His mother and mine both praised him for how quickly he ran home for help.
“Faster than a speeding bullet.” Mrs. O’Connor had copied that from Superman. I was sure that copying was a sort of stealing.
Whenever I started to talk, everyone started laughing. Our two mothers apparently thought my story was some kind of hilarious dream.
When I grew bigger, I was going to go back and get that rock.
Fast forward twenty odd years. I am in the apartment I share with my husband and newborn baby, and our kitchen floor is a small river. Again. The hose of our wringer-washer has slid out of the sink. I’dgone out of the room to get Eddy. Who was crying. Again.
And now Madame Dumas is marching up thestairs, again. The screeching isabout to begin. I open the door wearily, my son, now asleep, in my arms.
“Do you want to come in?” I say mildly, moving my head to indicate the water. My legs are in it, mid-calf.
No, of course not. She will stand in the doorway to do her screeching in French. The gist of what she says is: There will be hell to pay, Missy.
I know that she will tell the landlord. This is the thirdtime. Water leaking into herkitchen cupboards, destroying her sons’ collection of cassette tapes. Hô làlà!
They are, all three of them, divorced, lightly employed men in their forties. They leave in the morning, but are sitting out in the courtyard drinking beer by early afternoon. Why are you still coddling, protecting them? Can’tyou just give me a break? I just gave birth ten days ago and I am exhausted. Don’t you remember what this is like? And why do you let them keep their cassette tapes in your cupboards? Where do you put your food and your dishes?
And who still listens to cassette tapesanyway?
I don’t say a word. Madame Dumas is turning around now, about to make her old lady’s slow descent down the stairs. For some reason she is all sprightly, marching up.
I call out an apology as she goes. It sounds pleasant and sing-songy. But my nerves feel raw.
Then, as I mop the floor, Eddy in a sling across my hips, I daydream about the perfect murder. It seems I can’t stop the washing machine hose from sliding out of the sink and flooding both of our kitchens. A sort of uncontrollablewashing machine whim. Qué sera sera.
However, I think I know how to eliminate the second problem, the screeching voice.
I could find a rock. We live near a park. There are probably rocks.
I could put a small boulder in a bag and bring it home. The next morning, sneak out onto our balcony. Wait until Madame Dumas came out into the courtyard to water her tiger lilies.
And then: Oops! Plop! Thud! One final short scream.
I could feign ignorance easily. Lack of sleep since giving birth gives me a dopey vibe. Even if they found out she had been killed by a rock, how would they know where the rock had come from? Maybe it had come from theapartment above ours.
Would they go to the trouble of trying to figure that out? “Oh well, she had to go some time,” people would just say. They wouldn’t suspect the dopey young mother.
My phone is ringing. I put down my mop.
My uncle died. He was sixty-five. I hadn’t visited him during his illness; I was still bearing a grudge. I can’t write anymore because my eyes keepflooding with tears.
Anita Anand lives in Montreal, Canada. Her stories and essays have appeared in Frostwriting.com, the Louisiana Review and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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