Story #5: The Family
By this point in time, Lauren and I are fraying around the edges in terms of mental sanity, having already discussed to death ad nauseum the respective situations of our moral, family, home, economic, political, and love lives having been discussed, analyzed and picked apart from every angle possible in a Warren Commission-style series of inquiries conducted over dinner, at the same time trying to avoid either being perceived as an old married couple or becoming one. Today we decide to shake it up; Lauren proposes watching “Grey’s Anatomy” over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Now, my hearing being not quite what it was, I assume she means watching a television show about secretive Men in Black dissecting the otherworldly visitors that come in saucer-like UFOs, while splitting 1/8 gallon of some local brew (Smalltown U.S.A. is wet, but the county it is in is not). Much to my surprise, there were no government agents, no little gray-skinned coldly anthropomorphic aliens, and no fake ID’s in sight; instead we end up with some ice cream, a soap opera set in a hospital, and Lauren in stereotypically sorority sweatpants that have the name of our illustrious rich preppy white kids’ school stenciled down the side.*
Afterwards, there is a blur of YouTube videos that involve ghost riding, frat pranks, DUI, and a few other bits of nonsense, and then, finally, finally, FINALLY, Ryan arrives.
Ryan flies in from the West, and is understandably a little disoriented when she arrives. She is further disoriented by the fact that when she gets here Lauren and I are crying in relief that there is finally another one of us here, someone to break the yin/yang duality that we have created, someone who isn’t clawing to get out, someone who we can pretend is our adopted daughter (from South Africa).
When Matt arrives as our adopted son (from Korea), the family is complete; now I am the master.
Story #6: K-Mart
Matt, Ryan, and I are stuck with no place to go. So, like many cynical, bitter, alienated young people, we decide to go to Wal-Mart. Specifically, an establishment called “Super Wal-Mart”, which (allegedly) has the soy milk that Ryan (a vegan) requires to be able to eat her cereal.
By the way, since Ryan is a vegan, most of my conversations with her end up being enlightening, philosophical discussions about the ethical treatment of animals and animal products:
ME: So can you eat lasagna?
RYAN: No, it has cheese, which is an animal product.
ME: Well, what if we take the meat out?
RYAN:…it has cheese, which is an animal product.
ME: Can you eat barbecue?
RYAN:…think about that for a second.
ME: We can take the meat out of it for you!
We start driving south, cross the state border, and end up at an intersection which has…you guessed it. A K-Mart, a Mexican place, and Food City. Which means the Thai place is right here. I bang my head against the wall repeatedly until Matt gently takes my arm and tells me we are going to Super K-Mart instead, which is roughly the same thing.
As a hardened cynic, pundit, and geek, I have long since learned to avoid things with K’s (K-pax, Kristin, the KKK, K-wings) because of various unpleasant events/things associated with them (Kevin Spacey, Hiroshima, lynchings, the entire war against the Duskhan League) but somehow, I am convinced to go inside.
Super K-Mart has probably seen better days, unfortunately. Its shelves are half-empty and sagging, as though they haven’t been stocked since the boomtown times of the 1980s, and the only items there in plenty are discount candies, which Ryan (an insider, as she worked at Rite-Aid for two years) tells us probably mean they are the promotional kinds that they put in these big bins and nobody wants because they taste terrible. We end up not buying anything, although Ryan gets toothpaste from the convenience store next door.