August 27, 2009

A Liberating Dream

I just turned 10 and my name is Joseph. I live in Paris with my parents and sister. The environment at home is so oppressing that I still occasionally shit in my pants.

I suffer especially from the meals which are taken ritually in the kitchen: they are a concentrate of coldness and stress. There are rules ranging from how to hold your fork to eating everything in your plate. The vegetables are the cheapest my father could get and the fruit have no taste. Whether I like the food or not is not even a question: I have to eat it and belonging to "clean plates club" is not optional. But the worst is that I cannot even speak. I cannot say what I like and what I don't, that's obvious. But I cannot even speak of my day in school or raise an opinion on the subject Mister Father has brought up - except in the most perfect and accurate idiom approved by the bible of Mister Father: Grevisse1.

Precisely in the kitchen, that evening, my father interrupts me to correct my grammar. It doesn't matter that he makes mistakes in French (his native language is English) and hates being corrected. It doesn't matter that he hates being interrupted. He reacts with an expression of the disgust at the slightest infringement to the sacred rules of grammar and interrupts immediately to correct with an irritated voice. I cannot express myself without being at the constant mercy of his grimace and irritation.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: there's no escaping it.

But today, for me it's the last straw. I don't know what I've just said, all I know is that he has interrupted me one time too many, grrr.... "That's enough!", I shout to him. "How many more times are you going to miss my point and insult me?" I ask at the top of my preadolescent voice.

My mother's there but she's ignoring the scene. Her French is perfect so she's on the safe side. And defending her children is really not in her habits. She actually has her back to me - probably cleaning a salad or some fruit in the sink.

I grab the bowl of hot water which is in front of me on the table and I throw it furiously at her, without adding a word.

I leave the room in a mixture of rage and tears and for a long moment I go through my rage and despair, experiencing the relief of having set free what was consuming me. Being insulted thirty times a day by someone who claims to be my father while my mother stands by as if nothing was going on: what could be more infuriating?

But I don't stop there. I return to the kitchen and grab my father by the neck till he falls from his chair. I drag him on the floor to my room and bash him in the belly, in the upper torso, in the face. I can barely see, I feel only his fat under my fists. The tears in my eyes and the rage in my mind. I shout: "You don't understand! Why do you do this? What's the point??? All these corrections, for what?!!" and I continue to hit him. Under the blows he says faintly: "A good father behaves like the grandfather..." I'm taken aback. "What do you mean? Which grandfather? This guy wasn't a grandfather, he was a monster! Sensitive like a rubber sole: that's what he was. The guy never even wanted to meet me. It's a fact. People know he's still alive and he doesn't want to see me, I know it also!"

I'm calmer now. I eat the raw onions and cook the cucumber and tomatoes. I'll do it my way from now on.

1Le Bon Usage, by Maurice Grevisse

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