About Me. Part II - Обо мне. Часть II
|About Me. Part II|
|Mom’s hand starts reaching for where she figures my
arm will be. She’s off by about a foot, so I lean forward
to help out. When her hand hits flesh, she freaks, like
she’s grabbed a lizard or something.
“Oh, God! Oh, God! It’s Bobby! It’s him! He’s there!
He’s . . . he’s not . . . Oh, God, David, do something!
Let’s . . . let’s call Dr. Weston—or someone else, a . . . a
So I’m thinking, Oh, great. Yeah, let’s call one of
those Invisible Teenager Specialists. I’ll get the Yellow
But I don’t say that. I say, “Mom, come on, pull it together.
I’m not sick or anything. I’m okay. See, I’m eating
a healthy breakfast to help build strong bodies
twelve ways. Really. Mom. I’m okay.”
And I reach over and pat her hand. She jumps again,
but then she grabs hold of my hand with both of hers.
She squeezes so hard, I can feel my bones turning to
She’s kind of rocking back and forth in her chair, trying
to get her breathing to slow down. She doesn’t know
where to look. Her eyes dart all over where I’m sitting,
but then she focuses in on the Captive Hand—that blank
space between her two hands that feels like her only
child, her little baby Bobby, her life’s big disappointment.
It’s Dad again. He’s clearing his throat. That means he
knows something we don’t, and he wants to be sure we’re listening carefully.
“Emily, now think. We can’t
tell a soul about this. Not one person. Not your parents,
not Dr. Weston, not Margie or Louis, not anyone.
Imagine what would happen if the news of this . . . whatever
this is . . . if this got out into the public. We’d have
every reporter and every camera in the world on our
front steps in half an hour . . . and the government?—I
know the government. They would be here ten minutes
after the story broke—to take Bobby somewhere ‘safe.’
You think the CIA and the Joint Chiefs would be interested
in this? I can tell you, without a doubt, they
would. So we tell no one.”
He stops to let that sink in.
When there’s a family crisis or something bad happens,
usually you get to call for outside help. When
Bobby gets caught shoplifting, you call your lawyer.
When Mom drops her ring down the drain, you call a
plumber. Dad spills the charcoal grill onto the deck, you
call the fire department. But if your kid dissolves in the
shower one morning? Who do you call? No one. Dad’s
got it right. This has to stay in the house.
Then Dad crams some phony cheer into his voice and
says, “Hey, who knows? Everything could be back to
normal in half an hour. But no matter what, we tell no
Mom slowly nods her head yes, and so do I.
Dad looks in my direction and says, “And you agree
Then I realize that Dad can’t see me nodding.
So I say, “Absolutely. My invisible lips are sealed.”
Then I say, “But Mom’s got a good point—even if we
can’t tell anyone, don’t we have to do something?”
Dad again. “Do? Well . . . first we have to think.
Things that’re impossible never happen, and everything
that happens has a law behind it. I mean . . . there’s only
cause and effect, right? We are looking at an effect, so
there must be a cause. We find the cause, we reverse it,
and that eliminates the effect.”
Joe Physics again.
It’s the look on Mom’s face that makes me talk back
to Dad, because she isn’t buying his little science speech
So I say, “Yeah, that sounds great, Dad. But that still
doesn’t answer the question—which is, what do I do,
like right now, like all day today, and . . . tomorrow, and
maybe next week. This isn’t some physics lab, Dad.
This is me. Why don’t you just admit that the truth is,
you have no idea what I should do.”
That brings Mom back to life. “Now listen here,
It never fails. Whenever I screw up or mouth off, I
miraculously become a young man.
Mom keeps talking. “Your father and I have always
been good parents, and we’re not going to stop just because
of some . . . some . . . special problem. So just
mind your manners and keep a civil tongue in your
head. We’ll do everything we can—you know that.”
Dad is nodding along, and he says, “Of course we will,
Bobby. Now just everyone calm down. What we need to
do most of all is think carefully.
There’s no such thing as a problem that can’t be solved or . . . or a process that
can’t be explained. It just takes clear thinking.” And by
that, of course, Dad means his thinking.
They’re both talking loud, and yesterday I would have
just shut up or said “I’m sorry” or something. But it’s
amazing how brave you feel when the people who have
run your life for fifteen years suddenly can’t see the disgusted
look on your face.
I stand up so fast that my chair tips over backward
with a big bang. I yank the towel from around my waist
and throw it onto the table.
“Well, how about this?” I’m shouting. “How about if
I just disappear for a while? You two go ahead and do
all the clear thinking you want to. I’ll just drop out of
sight—you know, lay low a little. Then, I’ll let you
know what I’ve been thinking!”
I take three silent steps backward and stand near the
doorway by the telephone.
Five, six, seven . . . ten seconds.
“Bobby?” Mom is on her feet, looking at where I used
to be. But she can sense I’m not there. “Bobby! You stop
it this instant!” Now she’s panicked. She’s figured out
that I could be out the door and on a bus by now. She’s
looking every which way, wringing her hands and biting
her lower lip, and then yelling. “Bobby? BOBBY!”
And Dad—Dad is just sitting, palms flat on the table,
staring at the floor, shaking his head. It’s the logic again.
Dad sees right away that I have all the power, so he’s not
wasting energy. But then come the tears. Mom slumps down in her
chair and starts crying, and I can’t take that. I can never
take that. I have to fold.
So I say, real quietlike, “All right, all right. I’m right
over here. But remember, I’m the one with the problem
here, not you.”
Because that’s what they do, both of them. Like if I get
in trouble at school, suddenly they’re the ones on trial,
and they have to figure out what they have to do. It’s always
Mom’s mad, but mostly relieved. “Robert, that was
just mean. It’s not fair to . . . to hide that way. Promise
me, promise me, Robert, that you will never do that
And now I’m not the “young man.” Now I’m Robert.
And I’m doing this to her.
But I promise—with my invisible fingers crossed, of
Then I say, “But guys, do you get what I mean? I mean
like this isn’t just some—phenomenon. And it’s not like
I’ve got the chicken pox or the flu or something. This is
completely . . . different, and it’s happening to me, and
it means that I can’t do anything like I did it yesterday.
So that’s why I’m saying . . . what do I do?”
And now I’ve got myself scared too. Because it’s
Horribly true. Here I am, standing here with my feet
cramping up on the cold floor, imagining the rest of my
life as the ultimate weirdo. I can’t go anywhere. Clothes are supposed to have a
body inside them, and mine is missing. I could go out
naked. But that’s not something sane people do anytime
in Chicago, especially not in February.
School? Gone. Off the air. Not that I care much. It’s
the U of C lab school. It’s where the professors and the
local geniuses and all the rest of the university creeps
send their kids. It’s supposed to be so great. Better than
Francis Parkman. Better than North Shore Country Day.
Blah, blah, blah. Most of the time I can barely tolerate it.
Except for the libraries. And jazz band.
I mean, it’s not like I’m some psycho loner or anything.
I’ve got friends, kids I eat lunch with, stuff like
that. But I’m just not a private-school kid. I go there because
my family moved here six years ago. Plus, my
mom teaches at the university, so the tuition is cheap.
Maybe my school’s a great place if you’re a show-off genius
or a soccer god or something. But if you’re me, it’s
But that’s over, at least for . . . well, at least for today.
I stand there in the kitchen, naked and shivering, and
I look at Mom and Dad, still sitting at the table. They’re
stumped. I’ve never seen them this way. And that might
be the scariest thing of all. With parents like mine, you
get used to having them tell you what to do next. But I
can see they don’t have a clue. Not about this.
And suddenly I think, Why did I ever believe they
had all the answers for me, anyway?
I mean, they do know a lot of semi-interesting stuff.
Mom knows politics and history and English literature inside out, and Dad’s a certified brainiac, so he knows
tons. And that’s fine for them. But all that, that’s got
nothing to do with me, not right now.
So I look at them sitting there and I say, “I’ll be up in
my room. I’ve got to figure out what to do.”
And it’s true. I’ve got to figure it out. Because this,
what’s happening right now, this is about me.
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