Thursday, November 17, 2005

...but 'Ted Bundy' would be a bit warmer...

Saturday, October 15, 2005, 11:30am
Steve's house

I'm sitting on the couch in my family room, watching TV, as Dad's Mercury pulls into my driveway. Dad and Chris step out of the car and stride purposefully up my brick walk.

Something bad is going to happen. The two of them rarely come over here, let alone together. Either someone died, or is ill, or they are going to... confront me about something.

It must be a confrontation. If someone were sick, or dead, they probably would have called. Although, if it were Greg...

No, I am sure it's a confrontation. I fucked my first cousin a month and a half ago, and my younger brother is not speaking to me, and no one has said word one to me about it. Seems like Dad and Chris have been biding their time, preparing themselves for this moment, girding themselves for the Hellfire that they know I am going to unleash on them when they tell me how fucked up I am.

My palms start to sweat. If I am right, if this is what they are here for, this is going to be a visit they won't soon forget.

I don't want to deal with them. I've got to find a way to get them out of here. Although, they're just going to keep coming back until I let them talk to me.

The front door opens. "Twinkie!" calls Chris.

"What!" I yell back.

I position myself at the kitchen table, my checkbook and a few bills in front of me. Dad and Chris walk in and sit down. So much for them taking a hint.

"How you doing, Steve?" Dad says, with a shaky sigh.

I place my pen down on the table and look at them both in turn, my mouth closed tightly. "What can I do for you guys?" I ask.

Dad looks over at Chris, then back at me, then back at Chris again.

"Spit it out, Dad," I say.

"Steve, we want you to get help."

"I don't need any help. Is there anything else? I'm very busy."

"Steve, we heard about what happened with Jennifer."

"Really? I wonder who you heard that from!"

"Your brother Greg is a little emotional. But that's not the only reason we're here, Steve. It's fairly obvious by now that you've got some... challenges that you need to deal with."

I sit upright. "Challenges? CHALLENGES, Dad? Where did you get that word, 'challenges'? In all my 35 years of life, I don't think I've ever heard you use that word, ever. Who told you to use that word? Did you go to some website or something?"

"Steve-" says Chris.

"Did you use Google, Dad? What did you put in? 'My son is a fucked-up pervert'?"


"Did you go see someone? Some shrink, to get advice on how to to talk to me?"

"Steve, calm down."

"Challenges. I like that one. Because, if you said, 'You have issues' or, 'You have problems', that would sound too confrontational. Right? Those might make me mad."

Dad's eyes fix on me, as if the proper response were written in tiny print somewhere on my face, and all he had to do was find it.

I look back at him. His face is maybe three feet from mine. He's not a bad-looking guy, Dad, though he's getting close to what one might call an "elderly" age; his dark brown skin shows no significant wrinkles, and his hair is as thick and deeply black as it was in his high school yearbook picture. Though he's chubby, more than one of my girlfriends has commented on how handsome he is.

Dad's a nice guy, too. I don't know anyone who doesn't like him. He can make you crack up with stories about his work, or with his imitations of people he doesn't like; just as easily, he can convince you of his point of view on deficit reduction, even if you thought there was no changing your mind.

I feel bad for him. He's not trying to be an asshole. He's not trying to give me a hard time. But he is.

"Steve, I knew this was going to make you mad," Chris says. "I didn't want to come here because I knew it was going to be hard. You know me. I wouldn't be here unless I really thought it was important. Right?"

I look at him. Fair point, I guess.

"It's more than the Jenny thing. That was a little... strange, but I know it takes two, and obviously she was willing, so it wasn't just you. You two have a history, I know. If it was just that, Steve, we wouldn't be here."

Silence. I decide to listen to him, until he puts his foot in his mouth. But this is Chris, so that probably won't happen.

"That whole thing with Holly, Steve. I mean, you had to know she was underage. And even Lila was very young when you met her."

"What are you saying, Chris?"

"It's a sick world we live in, Steve. All it takes is one psycho father to come looking for you with a gun..."

"Or a psycho brother and a psycho father coming after me."

"I'm not coming after you, Steve. Look. I know our house wasn't the best place to grow up. We've all got issues. Yeah, ISSUES. We've all gone and gotten help. That includes me, Dad and Greg. We all needed someone to talk to."


"Will you let me help you find someone to talk to, Steve?"

Chris really is good at this sort of thing. He has somehow managed to keep my anger in check, while convincing me that seeing a shrink would be the most normal, uneventful thing in the world. Am I actually considering this?

"Chris, I appreciate it. But you haven't made your case."

"What case?"

"That I have a problem. I slept with my cousin, who I've been flirting with for 23 years? I like them young? That's it?"

"Steve, your relationships-"

"So now I need a shrink because I haven't found a wife yet?"


"Did you know it's legal in 43 states to marry your first cousin?"

They look at me.

"Did you know it's legal in this state to have sex with a 17-year-old?"

"That doesn't make it a good idea, Steve," Chris says.

"Do you guys think I'm stupid? Do you think I am a total moron? Look around this house. Look at the nice car in my garage. I earned everything, and I didn't earn it by being an idiot. Holly? Yeah, stupid mistake. Other than that, what have I done wrong?"

"You've done nothing illegal. Or, almost nothing. But you've done some things that were inadvisable."

"That's the beauty of being an adult, isn't it? Being able to make up your own mind about this stuff? Without interference?"

"Can I be honest?" Chris asks.

"Go ahead."

"It just seems like you are ... incapable of a committed relationship. You were with Lila, everything seemed fine, then all of a sudden you were broken up. Stephanie, same thing. It almost seems like, as soon as things start to settle down, you leave."

"Right!" Dad says. I had almost forgotten he was here.

"I didn't leave Stephanie."

"She left because you hurt her."

"So what, you are talking to her now?"

"She called me after you broke up. She asked me to get you help, and I told her she was crazy. I think I should have listened."

No shrink is ever going to help me. I don't like other people telling me my business, even if they happen to be right. I don't truly learn anything unless I discover it for myself.

I wake up happy every single day. I love my life, I love my house, my car, and my job. I'm even having a good time with Tim, and I feel like I could stay with her for a long time. There's no way I am going back to therapy.

"If I need help, I'll go find it. I know how to use a phone book."

"We want you to get help, before anyone else gets hurt," Dad says.

"I'm not Jeffrey Dahmer, Dad."

"No one said you were."

"Guys, are we done? I'm awfully busy here," I say, dismissively.

"I'll call you," says Chris.