what should we do now.


standing in front of my closet, i sniff my underarms and realize that i'm in desperate need of a shower. but, too late. they have already arrived, and they are ringing the doorbell. i throw on a shirt and some jeans and open the door. behind the metallic porch door, recently painted a dark brown, their faces are solemn but expectant. they are hoping for adventure, waiting to be rescued from another dreadful summer's day in the middle of suburbia. the three of them are young: 20, 13, 8, and they look like an odd bunch - two boys, one girl - and they, other than their black hair and dark eyes, look like they should have nothing to do with each other in any other circumstance. i grab my bag and books and we go.

outside, the mailman has just arrived, and he's pulled up behind my father's coworker, angel. "do you know that man?" my cousin asks. "yes," he's my dad's coworker. the man is walking towards the front door to the house, and the mailman is loading a stack of letters into appropriate slots. "put it in the drunk?" my cousin asks. he is referring to the small bath and body works bag i am holding, in which i have placed two got milk? t-shirts, three lego action figures, and two trophies. i had come across the trophies yesterday, and earlier today, i removed the two plates (sly park basketball champs 3 on 3/boys' j.v. basketball) with my red swiss army knife. along with the shirts and action figures, they must go. i simply have no room for such trivialities, and i don't wish to trouble myself with false plastic lies which indicate that, at some point in my life, i won something. truth be told, i didn't win. i never did. i barely participated.

i place the bag into the trunk, where a group of records have been scattered. "these going, too?" i ask. "yeah," he says, "they're probably melted by now. they've been sitting in my trunk for weeks." he drives, and i note that the children in the backseat are especially quiet. what are they thinking? has the boredom of summer already hit them? summers are a strange thing, especially for young children. suddenly, they are no longer told what to do. they have no school, no homework, and they don't see their friends as often as they used to. are they questioning their purpose in life, their existence? what do they want?

"so, what'd you do today?" "went to the movies." "what'd you see?" "iron man." "again?" "yeah, my dad's choice." "was it better the second time?" "awesome." he pauses for a while, then he has a question for me. "you remember when we watched it? did we stick around for the ending?" "yeah. we did." "no, i mean, like after the credits?" "no, i don't think we did." "well, there's a scene where the guy from shield talks to iron man." "what's shield? the terrorists?" "no, shield was like the good guys." "oh, okay." "well, the guy from shield goes up to iron man, and he's like, 'who are you?' and iron man goes, 'i'm iron man.'" "so, what was the point of that?" "nothing." "hmm. well it doesn't sound like we missed anything then." "yeah."

we drive to blockbuster to return reno 911: miami and rambo. "do you mind getting out an dropping them off?" my cousins asks. "sure," i say. i jog to the drop off booth, and throw the two dvds into the slot. we pull out of blockbuster's lot, and my cousin makes a right. i expect him to turn on southport, but he doesn't. "which thrift store are we going to?" i ask. "which one's closest?" "probably in rancho," i say. "so, go on folsom, then?" "yeah," i say. we drive past manlove, and make a right just after the railroad tracks. on the left corner, there's a lyon's restaurant, a place i have only eaten maybe two, three times in my whole life. "i could use a haircut," my cousin says. "there's pro-cuts right there," i say, pointing to my barber shop. "yeah, how much is it? like six bucks?" "actually, it's nine now. when they first opened, it was only five dollars." on the next corner is mcdonald's, and on the right side is the old two-story house i once imagined was haunted.

we drive some more. taco bell has been turned into what looks like a korean barbecue joint, and there are endless liquor stores and cash-2-go type places. i have been reading the working poor recently, and this area, this stretch of folsom boulevard which connects rosemont and rancho cordova reminds me of the poverty-stricken areas mentioned in the book. i've been reading about how these "fast cash" type places set up shop in poor areas, where nearby residents will need cash on hand to pay for overdue electric bills, medical bills, car payments, etc. basically, the fast cash place gives them money and hits them with ungodly interest rates. maybe people already know this. i did not know this. i thought they were just places where you could go to cash your paycheck. but no, they are the war profiteers in this ongoing struggle.

further down the stretch of road to the right is a small stretch of shops whose exterior has been remodeled to look new and exciting. there's a christian dvd/bookstore, a fish and chips place, a nail salon, among others. we finally get to the thrift store, and i tell my cousin where to park. we unload all the records and my sad little bag of donations, my younger cousins following on foot. "can we leave this stuff here?" i ask the thrift store attendant. "yeah, sure." after we do this, we walk back to the car. "do you want to go in?" i ask. "umm," my cousin says, "i don't really need anything." we pile back into the car. "what do you wanna do now?" he asks. "i need to go to the library."

the library is only a block away from the thrift store. i have three unread books i need to return, and one book to pick up, a book i probably will not read, but will try to anyway. "it's a hundred and two degrees out," he says. "really?" "yeah." i drop the books off into the return slot, and i go inside the library. it's cool inside, air-conditioned. i walk to the holds section and get the book that is waiting for me, the short stories of richard bausch. my three cousins are huddled together at the end of the holds section. i desperately want them to walk around, explore the library, see all the wonderful, amazing shit that they can borrow for free, for as long as they want. but they stand there, the three of them, not quite sure what to do with themselves.

"you mind if i look at the cds?" i ask. "no, go ahead," my cousin tells me. i browse through the rack of cds, but i don't see anything that really interests me. i wonder if i should show my cousin that smoosh's cd is available, since he asked about them just a few days ago. but i don't. i see that the two younger ones are already walking out the door, and i think perhaps that they're using the restroom. i look at the dvd shelf, but it's completely barren. i use the self-service checkout machine, and i wonder if i offend the library clerks by doing this. i reason with myself, though, that i am being courteous. even though there is nobody in line, i know how to operate the self-service machine, so why should i bother them? i am not anti-social. i am self-sufficient.

i go outside, and see that my cousins are sitting in the heat. this, i don't understand. at all. is literature so abhorrent to them that they'd rather soak up the offensive, 102 degree temperature, than peruse worlds of knowledge in an air-conditioned facility? suddenly, i see this great divide between us. these people aren't family. the family i want to be a part of spends their time writing, making music, finding creative outlets. it's the only escape from the horror of living in a small, small-minded town. "well, what should we do now?" i feel the slightest pang of annoyance. i already gave you my ideas. thrift store, library. you didn't want to do either, so drop the "what should be do now" bullshit. i am annoyed, but i'm not angry. my cousins would rather play the newest wii game, or surf the web, or complain about how there's nothing to do in the confines of their air-conditioned homes.

we drive past a billiards place, the skating rink, the indoor go-kart place, the drive-in theaters. there are things to do alright, but they cost money, money we don't have. as the eldest, i feel responsible for this group, but i didn't know how to save myself when i was their age, how should i know now? i think i would like to play a soccer game, but i know they wouldn't be up for it. it's too hot. how about a bike ride? too hot. we go back to my cousin's house. i feel a desperate urge to jump out of the car, to say, "actually, can you take me home?" but the words don't come out, and i don't move. i just go into the house and we do exactly what i expect we are going to do. we watch tv. my cousin makes a last stitch effort to rescue us from the drudgery of cable tv. he must see that i'm defeated, that i no longer have any hope, that i'm ready to settle for a lifetime of junk food, reality tv and low expectations. in my mind, he must be thinking, you poor, disillusioned, hopeless bastard.

but maybe not. "you guys wanna play risk?" he asks. "no." i am twenty-five, and i don't have a clue, but i have sense enough to tell me that i'm unwilling to play fucking board games, especially one as epic as risk. my other cousin, the girl, declines as well. they set the game up, but the youngest cousin suddenly loses interest when an episode of the simpsons comes on. i am secretly delighted. i don't want the youngest one growing up around that. i don't want him collecting baseball cards or playing world of warcraft and what have you. i want him to be cool, happy, well-adjusted - the way none of us were ever able to be. eventually, he loses interest in the simpsons, too, and i am left alone on the couch, watching the simpsons.

with the fear of being asked, "what should we do now?" looming over my head, i decide that i want to be alone. i will walk home in the heat. i make this known to my cousins. "are you sure you don't want a ride?" he asks. "it's kind of hot out." "i don't care," i say. the girl repeats his warning, "it's hot out." i want it to be hot, scorching. either that, or freezing cold. i want it to be late at night in the dangerous part of town. i want to get mugged. take the $5.34 in my checking account. i need someone to beat some sense into me. i need someone to take me out back, hold a gun to my head, and say, "what the fuck do you want to do with your life?"

but they won't. they'll settle for a much milder, "what should we do now?" and i'll just have to accept it. at least for the time being.

1 comment:

ms.meggie said...

being bored is not a bad thing (i think you mentioned this in an earlier entry).

your writing is proof that something beautiful can come of it.