We just want you to be happy

How to: Repair your relationship with your parents with this ONE EASY TRICK

All I want is for you to be happy, she says, again. You shouldn't feel bad, it’s okay to tell us these things. We just want you to be happy.

I'm not. I haven’t been in years. I don’t feel happy — at the best of times, what I feel is the null absence of malaise. I'm not happy. We've had this conversation every week for more than a decade.

The suffering from having me there will be greater than the suffering of missing me there, I say. She says no, of course not. That’s because you don’t know me, I say. You think you want me there — You want the me-as-you-want-me-to-be, to be there. You want your Son to be there. A capable adult, a reflection of the good work you have done in life. Proof.

You don’t want me there. I will embarrass you. I cannot take part in the games you and your friends play. I don’t enjoy them. I don’t value them. I was never taught to, and I had to make up my own kind of games.

When the other guests see me, they will think less of you. You have a broken son. A crazy person. He’s not having any fun. The humiliation of this is far greater than the mystery of why I'm not there — in fact, you would probably have to remind most of the guests that I was not there.

I want you to be happy, I say. But I can’t help you. And we are going to keep having this same conversation every week until you start being honest with me. I've always been honest with you. That’s why I avoid calling you, and pretend I don’t hear my phone when you call.

It would make me happy for you to be there, she says.

I call my dad afterwards. He’s drunk. He asks me if I'm going to the wedding. I say yes. He asks me if I need money to buy some decent, presentable clothes. I say no. He keeps asking. I keep saying no.

I want to tell him I'm going crazy. He wants to tell me about going on a ride in a speedboat they rented.

I'm looking forward to seeing you, he says. It makes me happy to see you.

I want to tell him that it’s not true, but it has to be another time. He’s drunk. He says his girlfriend feels bad about going to his ex-wife’s wedding, and she starts yelling at him. Why would you say that? That’s not true! Her voice is trembling. I've never said that. Why would you make something like that up? When he lied about Mom like this, back in the day, she would never yell at him. She’d be pissed, but she didn't raise her voice.

He wants to help me, but he doesn't know how. “Seeing me”, being around me, spending time with me — these things do not “make him happy”. I can’t believe that. If it did — he would have to be a monster. I do not play his games. I just sit there, staring at nothing, a vegetable.

“That’s right”, he said, once, a couple of years ago, when I tried to decline playing a board game with them politely. “You don’t like to have fun”. It wasn't teasing, or a put-down. He was talking to himself, explaining me in the only framework he can make sense of me in.

I don’t like to have fun.

It’s not that I prefer another kind of fun, it’s not that I find other things funny. I simply don’t like to have fun. I don’t like to buy an extra house. I don’t like to have a new job. I don’t like to get fired from my job. I don’t like to buy a motorcycle. I don’t like to make cruel and belittling judgements about people to their face and watch them squirm. I don’t like to lie brazenly, daring everyone around me to call me out on it, knowing they wont, and acting hurt when they do anyway. I don’t like to have a girlfriend. I don’t like to get drunk and kiss girls. I don’t like to play tennis every Monday evening and have a beer afterwards. I don’t like to have friends. I simply don’t like to have fun.

I'm not different. I'm broken.

You’re not wrong, I say. He doesn't get the joke.

He asks me if I need some money to buy some decent clothes. I wore my steel toed work boots to his fathers funeral because it’s the only pair of black shoes I own. I held my arm around him as he cried into my shoulder. Some time after the funeral, one of them made a comment about how granddad would have taken offence to being buried by a female priest. I don’t remember who. I just remember that it was gleeful. A final own of a dead man who spent his entire life in the service of others and who lived the last 10 years of his life dealing with the guilt of feeling responsible for his wife’s death because of passive smoking cancer propaganda.

Whenever I'm with either of you, I play pretend. I wish I didn't have to. But I just want you to be happy.

When are you coming up, he asks. Friday. Are you going to the ceremony in the courthouse? No, I'm not. I don’t recognize the legitimacy of the union. I don’t consider your divorce legitimate. I don’t care that you don’t want to live together, and I don’t care that you've both taken concubines. Well, strike that, I do care. If I were you, I would be fucking furious. If I was my brother I’d be scraping the guys mouth with a cotton swab and having a DNA test done. I think the whole thing is a God damn sham, and I think you’re both living in denial, regressed into some fantasy world where nothing matters, because you cant deal with the emotional impact, because neither of you ever really healed from having your son die twenty years ago. Even if I got a little better later. I think it’s pathetic to even want to get “re-married” at that age, it’s the romantic equivalent of 80’s nostalgia in the movies. I think that it wouldn't have to be pathetic if you were just honest about it. You don’t even have to be honest with each other. But I wish you could be with yourselves. I wish you could be, with me.

Have you talked to your brother lately? Their dog is doing really good. They are having a lot of fun with their dog.

I don’t believe in the idea of marriage as the pinnacle of individual-mutual romance. It doesn't make sense — it can’t work. It’s the thing about, back in the day, you used to have children because you had to, nowadays you only have them when you want to. But there’s more to it than that. The institution of marriage as the culmination of the romance, as the peak romantic individual enjoyment of each other, is simply not philosophically valid. It’s just another brand of hedonism, because it does not transcend the self. And if it doesn't transcend the self, then it is an empty, meaningless ritual. The only way the ritual works, and can be meaningful, is as a confirmation of pregnancy. You might love one another; you might love madly, to the brink of madness — but no matter how complicated the ritual, there can be no culmination of your love. All who have been naked with another knows this, even if we sweat to forget it. I love my woman, you say. I want her, desire her, appreciate her. There are no words for how much I desire her. It is otherworldly. It is beyond me. The tragedy of love is this: the closer I am to the object of my desire, the more the distance between us is affirmed. Even as we are naked, desperately holding on to each other for dear life, pressing our lips together in a mutual mock-eating of each other, even as I penetrate the woman that I love, we are apart. We can never be One, you can only be together. Desire is endless, and love is a greater and more eternal force than gravity. The closer we are, the more desperately we feel it. The only way out, the only transcendence, is conception. To Create a being that IS your unity, separate from both of you. You will never be one — but your love for one another, can be. And in that unity, in the birth of a child; then and only then, are you Married — and as long as your children live, you will stay married. I believe, that to be truly divorced, in spirit? You would have to kill me and my brother.

Well I'm sure your brothers girlfriend will be happy to stand in for you as a witness, so that shouldn't be a problem, he says. Yeah, Mom said she’d ask her, I say.

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Pompeo Batoni
some calves I happened to see right after I hung up the phone

Hello. Good luck.

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