Published on December 13th, 2012 | by Mallory Nezam0
Dinner always begins with the effortless tap on my door, followed by the monotone, “c’mon, Juh-sell.” I peek my head out and see my perpetually pain-stricken host brother, Jeremy, trudge down a dark hallway toward what seems like his death bed. Instead, it is a reheated meal full of awkward silences and placated conversation. Jeremy, who has told me that he “hates his parents” and that they are “trying to ruin his life,” drags his feet as I meet up with him. His ears are plugged with headphones and the expression on his face does not change the entire walk to the dining room.
Upon our entrance, his mother screws her face up disapprovingly, pointedly looking with her blue-lidded bug eyes at Jeremy’s iPod. Half a second later, she shoots a toothy smile in my direction.
“Bonjour,” I greet.
The mother giggles. She gets excited when I speak French.
“Bon-jurr,” she attempts as the microwave beeps thrice, each sound shriller and louder than the next. “Dinner is ready,” she says, removing instant “french” fries from the microwave with a sock as an ovenmit. “Where the hell is Stacey? Stacey?!?!“
The mother’s much-hated boyfriend, emerging from the corner of the room where he has been flipping through last month’s Cosmo, adjusts his belt and seats himself at the head of the table. Jeremy chooses the seat furthest away from him and plops down, legs sprawled out.
With a stack of paper plates and a bottle of orange liquid, the mother calls out for Stacey again. Stacey descends the stairs with flopping ponytail, yapping loudly on her cell phone. In quick but large gestures she grabs a container of yogurt from the refrigerator, and in no time is back up the stairs, still immersed in the latest gossip. Jeremy glares at his mother as she shrugs and turns back to her fiasco on the countertop.
After placing a bowl of soggy fries directly in front of me, the mother begins her daily dose of useless questions, and Jeremy resists answering. How was school? What did you do? Why are you ignoring me? The boyfriend chews loudly and shakes his head, and then chews even more loudly and huffs to let us know that he is angry. His nostrils flare as he stuffs another dripping forkful into his mouth. It is silent except for his chewing.
The mother brushes a strand of hair out of her face and Jeremy scours his plate. Silence and Chewing. He sticks his earphones back in and the boyfriend throws his fork down in a huff.
I am always the lifesaver in moments like this.
“Juh-sell,” the mother turns to me. “Where did you get that top? In France? It’s adorable.”
While I answer she stares at Jeremy and tells him to finish his plate before turning back to me to smile with disinterested eyes.
“It’s cute,” she says. “You all are so fancy over there.”
Jeremy turns his music up so that it is audible from beyond his headphones and the boyfriend shoves another forkful into his mouth with unusual force.
“Yellow and blue, and what are those?…Flowers?”
Jeremy crosses his arms and narrows his eyes. The boyfriend sets his fork down for the first time and looks over at Jeremy.
“Adorable. I’m going to have to get me one of those.”
The boyfriend resumes his eating. Jeremy stands hastily from the table and goes out the front door.
“Well, I am full,” the mother announces.
I thank her for the dinner as she reaches for the boyfriend’s free hand.
“Of course,” she says as she shoots a kiss in his direction. He adjusts his belt and chews.