(I can’t believe I didn’t add this. This was an assignment for my creative writing class. We were to write a story from three perspectives. I borrowed from an idea I’d seen online of a young man telling a story of his traumatic car ride, which can be viewed here… http://www.queerty.com/watch-15-year-olds-electrifying-award-winning-story-about-his-lesbian-moms-20130108 He’s a great story-teller and it’s worth a view.)
The door slammed hard. Jeremy had heard a lot of that lately. He lay quietly in bed, playing videos and trying desperately not to think about the muffled fights he’d been hearing through their cramped apartment walls. He wished he wasn’t grounded and could be out with his friends. So they shared a cigarette. What was the big whoop? He was sick of his parent’s fights. Something was going on with them and it scared him. Since they wouldn’t let him hang with his friends, playing video games was the only escape from the worries that filled his head.
Jeremy’s worries were about to get worse. He hadn’t heard a fight, but after hearing the door slam, he was listening so intently for them to leave. That was the pattern—fight, door slams, they left to fight in the car, come home and pretend it was all fine. He jumped when he unexpectedly heard his dad call from down the hall, “Jeremy, get out here. We’re going for a ride.”
His stomach cramped. They never included him before, “Where to?”
“Just a ride. Hurry up. I’ll be waiting outside.”
His parents were already sitting in the front of their beat up old hatchback by the time he got to the busy street below. He climbed into the backseat and buckled up. His mother turned and gave him a cautious smile, but as his dad drove down the street there was total silence between his parents.
It was then that he knew what this ride was all about. They were going to break the news to him. Jeremy had lots of friends that were divorced, and they’d all described “the talk.” He wanted this to stop. As much as they annoyed him, he loved his mom and dad. He didn’t want to live with one and not see the other except on weekends. He worried they might make him pick. He didn’t know how he could pick. He stared at the back of his mom’s head, hoping if he kept his eyes open, the air would dry out the tears that were forming.
Jeremy’s mom, Meredith, wiped the dishes she’d just washed. It was one of the many chores she wished she didn’t have to do. With a kitchen the size of a closet, there just wasn’t room for a dishwasher. She turned around and slammed her hip into the silverware drawer, forgetting she’d left it open. She knew that would leave a bruise the next day. It would join the others. The cramped quarters caused fights on a daily basis. Their 900 square foot apartment was just too small for them and a soon-to-be teenager, and she couldn’t turn him loose into this neighborhood, after he’d been caught smoking. They swore it was only a cigarette, but she had her doubts. They needed something bigger, far from the gangs of this neighborhood.
They had been looking at houses for the past few months. They’d found the perfect place. It was in a great school district, the house had a big yard, and they’d finally be able to give Jeremy a dog. She could have a dishwasher, and wouldn’t have to go to the Laundromat anymore, but Andy thought it was out of their reach and refused to put in an offer. He insisted they should focus on a 1600 square foot condo that was cheaper and closer to work. To Meredith, it was nothing more than a glorified apartment. Even if the payment was a little lower, and Andy’s commute was shorter, Jeremy would still be growing up in an apartment without a yard. Having a house would be the best thing for the family. They could make it work. She didn’t know why he couldn’t see that.
The door slammed hard making her jump, and Andy walked in. He smiled and said, “Hey honey, want to go for a ride?”
She did not. A car ride meant a fight, and she wondered if it was going to be about a house, or if there was something different on the agenda.
She smiled back politely, and said, “Sure, just let me get my purse.”
She was surprised when Andy called up to Jeremy. She still had no desire to sit in a car with her stubborn and selfish husband, but with their son in the car, at least she knew they wouldn’t be fighting. She loved Andy desperately, but she wasn’t sure how much more she could take.
Andy rode the elevator up to their tiny apartment. They’d lived there for almost 20 years, and it held so many good memories for him. He remembered when he and Mere walked through the empty rooms and imagined the life they would build together. It had seemed so big at the time, for just the two of them. They’d planned on having a whole bunch of kids, but Andy was happy with their small family. Jeremy was enough. Their apartment, no matter how many good memories it held, was not.
He knew he was conservative with money. He had coworkers who didn’t make much more than he did yet they lived in big houses, were always driving a new car, or taking their family on fantastic trips. He just couldn’t see going into debt to do all those things. He had to look at the big picture, so they’d be okay in the long run.
He was putting his briefcase down in the apartment entryway when a breeze slammed the door behind him. He heard the clink of dishes, and the roast in the oven teased his nose. He walked into the kitchen grinning, “Hey honey, want to go for a ride?”
He felt the chill of her response, “Sure, let me get my purse.”
He knew they had drifted apart as they struggled financially. She and Jeremy deserved better, yet at the same time, they had all his love. That had to count for something. He yelled down the hallway at Jeremy’s closed bedroom door, “Jeremy get out here. We’re going for a ride.”
He heard Jeremy’s sullen voice ask, “Where to?”
“Just a ride. Hurry up. I’ll be waiting outside.”
They rode in silence as the miles rolled past. From time to time he saw Mere look over at him, her unspoken questions ringing in his mind. He had so much to say and it was on the verge of spilling out. He wanted to get there quickly so he could tell them everything, but he took a meandering route. He kept silent since it was easier if he didn’t say anything at all.
Meredith watched the scenery change into picket-fenced suburbia. Andy seemed to be driving aimlessly, much the same way he lived his life. When the car finally came to a stop, her thoughts did too. She saw and processed where she was. Instantly, tears formed as she whipped around to look at Andy, who was grinning like a fool.
He whispered, “I wanted to surprise you. I got a promotion, so I put in an offer on Monday and they accepted today. It’s ours.”
This was the house she wanted Jeremy to grow up in. There was the porch she wanted to sit on in old age with Andy. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she her dreams come true.
Jeremy felt the car stop. He studied the scenery, memorizing the tree-lined street with big houses where he would find out they weren’t a family anymore. His mom was already crying. His parents whispered in the front seat, but the roar of fear filling his head drowned out the words. He wanted to run from the car. He didn’t want to hear what they were about to say. But then he saw them hug, and his dad dangled a key in front of his mom who was smiling.
As his parents got out of the car, his dad turned to him and through the roar, Jeremy heard him say, “Come see your room.” His parents laughed lightly as they walked up the sidewalk, arms around each other. His dad turned back to him still sitting in the car, “C’mon Jeremy. You better start thinking about what kind of dog you want, too.”
Finally the tears spilled down his cheeks, but now out of joy rather than sadness. This wasn’t the spot where he would find out his family was no more. This was the spot where he found out his family would always be a family, and that they had finally come home.