[This is an excerpt from a work in progress. More details to be revealed shortly]

 

They all shouted one, and a giant ball, morphing gold and silver, dropped from the very top of a pole on One Times Square down towards the earth, landing on the roof of the building itself. Confetti rained from the sky akin to the way the earth itself surrendered to the snow. The video ads on the buildings blazed light into the night, Frank Sinatra played in the background, and the crowd, covered neck to toe in winter gear, yet their hair concealed by giant top hats sponsored by Planet Fitness, strangers boxed together in dense lines, and yet singing to each other as if they were the best of friends, spared none of their energy in squalling to the sky. The sounds were enough to clap through the midnight, rip open pavement, tear the world asunder. A New Year – no, not just A New Year, but A New Decade – had begun, and it was being watched, all over the world.

Mother and Father were one such couple. They were quilted together in bed, watching the television, in their quaint suburban home in Long Island, two stories, made out of bricks, the columns painted white, the roof a charcoal black. Mother had previously been nestled in Father’s arms when she suddenly sat up. The camera was panning out to random people in the crowd and showing how various people were reacting to the start of the New Year. Some couples were making out, others were throwing these top hats in the air, or shouting nonsense at the camera. What had made this look of intense confusion spring up on Mother’s face was this momentary pause of the camera on a man, tightly wrapped up in a scarf, his hazelnut eyes looking wistfully upwards.

Mother pointed, and her voiced perked up, “Is that our son?” She looked over to Father, whose eyelids had drooped shut, and she slapped him. “Hey, hey, look. Is that our son?”

Father’s head nodded up and down, and finally he opened his eyes, and when he looked at whom Mother was pointing at, he banged his head against the back of the wall. “How is that our son?”

Mother looked at where she was pointing, to find that there was a curly-haired black woman, obese enough that three mounds of fat were covering up her chin, waving her flabby fingers at the camera. “Oh, Jesus,” Mother exclaimed. “You missed it. Our son was on camera, I swear.”

Father blinked, like he was thinking about something, but then he let out a big yawn, threw himself under the sheets, and turned into himself. “You can turn off the television. New Year’s is over.”

“What? Hey! Are you listening to me or not?” Mother was poking Father in the head, trying to get his eyes to lift up. “I said our son was in the crowd.”

“You’re seeing things.”

“I’m absolutely not. I’m a mother. I know my own son.”

Whether it was another yawn or a groan, it was hard to understand, but Father turned back towards Mother and snatched the remote from her, to turn the television off. “He’s not even in the country. And he said he’s never coming back.”

“What if he changed his mind?”

“And why would he be in a crowd in Times Square, of all places?”

“Well, you know our boy. He’s one of these artsy types. God knows what he thinks. Maybe he wanted to come home but he isn’t ready to see us. Oh, I’m getting nervous.” Mother got out of bed, and went to the toilet. When she came back, she shouted, “Where are the keys? Hey, where are the keys?”

It was hard to make out whether the snoring was authentic or fake, but when Mother turned on the lights, Father’s eyes had no other option but to face them, crusty and red as they were, and he shouted, “What’s wrong with you? Tomorrow’s not a day off for me, you know? I’ve got to go to the hospital, just like any other doctor. You going to let me sleep or not?”

“I want to see our son.”

“Our son isn’t even in America.”

“Our son was just on the television, right now.”

“It was just some other guy that looked like him. Do you know how many tall brown-haired hipsters there are in New York?”

“But only our son looks at the world the way he does. I know that stare. It belongs to my boy.”

“Don’t you think you could have just been imagining things? Don’t you think that you thought you saw someone who stares at things like that, because you really wanted to see it, so you made it all up?”

“How dare you! Just… just… ugh!”

Mother was rummaging through the bedside table, so frantically that the lampshade could have been knocked out. “What are you doing?” Father asked. Mother had found the keys, and waved them directly over Father’s face. “Where are you going?” Mother was leaving the bedroom, and thudding down the stairs. “You aren’t going to get changed, at least? Do you know how cold it is?” There was no response coming from downstairs, so Father grumbled, pulled his back up, straightened his legs, and made his feet touch the floor. He groused, stretched his body upright, and with the lights of the house off, he took himself, step by step, carefully downstairs. Mother had made it to the door to the garage. The door hadn’t been opened yet. Mother was sitting on the shoe case, as if she were about to put on some sneakers. Both of her feet had been socked, but her head had thudded against the wall, her hands were covering her eyes. She was stuck in that position, as if something in time had frozen.

“You finally realizing it’s cold outside?”

Mother put her hands down, revealing her eyes, as bloodshot as Father’s. She kept her head in that tilted position, and said, “Christ, what am I doing?”

“You talking to God or to me?”

“I’m just talking. What time is it?”

“It’s almost one o’clock. We should be getting to bed.”

“I know. But I need to see my son.”

“You aren’t going to see him in the middle of Times Square. I’d bet money on that.”

“You’re right. He would have long gone somewhere else. Maybe over to Tribeca. They have the New Year’s parties over there, in Tribeca, right?”

Father was sighing deeply, not once, not twice, but thrice. He looked like he was about to throw the angriest of words at Mother by the way he was heaving his back, but then he sat down beside her, and he took her hand. “I know nothing about Tribeca. My life is in Long Island, and I like to keep it that way.”

“I know that our son loves a good party.”

“Damn right he does. You remember when he was up at Oxford, and he’d call us up in the middle of the night? You would be getting the casserole ready, I’d be watching the Knicks, and he would call us, asking for money. Not about our day. Not about our life; he just wanted money from us.”

“I don’t believe it,” Mother sniggered. “I don’t think there was ever a time you wanted to watch the Knicks. You hate watching sports.”

“Okay, that part, I might have made up. I like to think I like baseball, you know?”

“But I know you don’t.”

“I know. But still.”
“But still,” Mother said. “Still, I can’t help but imagine my boy, out there, partying ’til the crack of dawn.”

Father rested his head on Mother’s shoulder and said, “You know, then he wouldn’t be in Tribeca. He’d probably be in Greenwich Village.”

“I thought you said you didn’t know anything about Tribeca.”

“I don’t know anything about Tribeca, but I’ve been a New Yorker long enough to know that our boy is the Greenwich village type.”

“Unfortunately,” Mother said, and she sighed out a storm. “Don’t tell me he would be at one of those types of parties. I can’t imagine it, and I won’t.”

Father shrugged. “So, let’s say he was at one of those other parties then, in one of those snazzy music bars, where people like Lady Gaga used to perform.”

“Not her, no one but her.”

“Alright, fine, you like Patti Labelle? We’ll make it Patti Labelle.”

“No one dances to Patti Labelle.”

“I dance to Patti Labelle when I want,” Father said, and he danced, as best he could, which was largely putting his fists in the air, and twirling them about.

“Stop,” Mother said. “Just stop.” She wasn’t laughing. Her head was slumping more to the wall. “I’d give anything to see him. Do you know how long it’s been? Eight years. Eight fucking years. Our boy got too much of your genes. He is too stubborn.”

“Hey, you’re the stubborn one, not me.”

“So, we tried to cure him? We were doing what was best for him, and he had to throw it in our face like that? I was trying to save my baby. Doesn’t matter to him, burning up in the fires of Hell, I guess, so why should it matter to me? He’s trying to punish us? We should be punishing him. Selfish, dramatic, stupid boy. Don’t call him ever again. Don’t ever let him know we’re alive. Let him think we’re dead. We’re dead to him anyway… we’re fucking dead.”

Mother sniffled, quite strongly, as if she wanted a handkerchief, but had none, and had to make do with that fact. Father stared at Mother, trying his hardest to smile, but he couldn’t keep it up for long. His eyelids shuttered. His breath gave out. His head was giving into somnolence, and it sank once more, deep onto Mother’s shoulder. Nevertheless, Mother said, “I know what my New Year’s resolution is. I’m just not going to think about him anymore. I’m going to pray to God, and I’m going to make my nephew my baby – he already is my baby, anyways. No more thoughts for Son. He says we’re dead to him. Fine! He’s dead to us too. Kaput, kaboom, vamoose.”

Father said, in groggy voice, “Is saying all of this working for you?”

“Oh, you know it isn’t. How could it? I just saw him on the television. How can I want anything else but to see him, to hug him, to touch him, to call him my baby boy?”

Father was plucking the stray hairs from Mother’s head, the ones that were growing gray, and picking at them, twirling them in the air. “I guess if he was in the city, and you had to see him, what would you say?”

Mother paused for some time, and then she said, “I think I would tell him to forget what happened, just forget everything about it, and come home.”

“I’d say the same damn thing.”

“But you won’t pick up the phone and say it.”

“I won’t.”

Mother paused again, looking downwards. The tiles covering the floor were in need of renovation, showing cracks here or there, and the living room carpet, albeit recently cleaned, was looking too spongily brown. Mother opened her mouth to say, “You know, if he were in Greenwich, I think he’d have gone out dancing, not to a bar,” but Father did not answer. Mother turned her head slightly, but despite the shift in her posture, Father did not stir. He was dead asleep, and when he was asleep to this degree, not many things would wake him up. Mother rolled her head from the left to the right, but stopped when she was about to hit Father’s ear. She settled into this posture, made it comfortable enough. She reached for the light switch above them, and turned it off. They were in the darkness. And, in this darkness, with no cricket chirps, no floorboard creaks, no hoots from the drunkards coming back from their own New Year parties, nor a single yawn, nor snore, coming from their own bodies, they were absolutely, definitively, alone.

 

 

 

 

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