The Misadventures Of Silas Graham

The relationship between my father and I is difficult to talk about because I really don’t know what to say, in conversation that is. My counselor suggests that I write about it. He’s emotional, a drunk and difficult to understand. He is depressed and has become so antisocial that I hardly see him, and I live with the guy. We don’t live in the best conditions; we live in a trailer park and it gets pretty quiet here, too quiet. At times, however, my dad can get rather loud, not aggressive, just loud. We eat from styrofoam plates with plastic knives and forks. I’m not complaining, I’m just not that happy with everything, living in this is not much of a highlight. There’s no shower so we have to walk quite a bit to use a communal shower. I get the groceries because my dad doesn’t want the burden of showing himself in public, he suddenly became embarrassed of himself since the divorce. He just sits in an office doing God knows what all day, he actually never explained to me what exactly he does. He just says a bunch of things, throws out some random terminology hoping I will be impressed, shut up and not talk about it again. He’s usually late on Friday nights when he comes back home with girls after spending hours at the bar.

I usually hear the girl’s leave and there’s always this awkward silence the next day. This morning it’s different, he’s actually seeing someone at the moment, her name is Sarah. I usually see her on Saturday mornings now, she doesn’t leave like the rest of them. Ever since she’s been around she cooks me breakfast on the weekends, eggs and toast with a glass of orange juice. It’s never great but its sweet of her to cook for me and only me. Dad doesn’t get up until the middle of the day and even then he’s not hungry. I sit with her on the couch and we discuss—well she does most of the talking really. It’s the middle of the summer and the heat hurts. The door is open because the fan is broken and Sarah is constantly complaining to me about how hot it is. I nod while chewing, not in the mood to respond to her. When she finally stops complaining and begins actually wanting to have a conversation, I give her my attention.

“You working this weekend Silas?” she asks.

I shake my head.

“Why not?”

“I decided to take the weekend off, seeing my mother and friends today, plus I have errands.” Sarah nods, she seems impressed that I’m doing something other than making milkshakes at Dairy Queen. She looks at me for a few moments and then looks away, I can tell something is up.

“What?” I ask.

“Oh nothing it’s just your dad talks about her, your mom, all the time and he’s always so broken up about it, he cant’ seem to let go of his mistakes. He’s a good guy, you know? He does try.”

I look down not wanting to go into depth to explain why he’s the way he is. I just agree and tell her that I know. I put my plate away and thank Sarah for the meal, I have to leave anyway, I’m very conscious of the time, I grab all that I can for my shower so I will have enough time to go on with my day. I like taking long showers. Before I step out the front door Sarah warns me to take an umbrella, she says that it would rain later. I don’t have an umbrella, so she offers me money to go and get one, I refuse and say that I have my own money. I think she would have wanted me to take it , however I don’t take money from people, she’s still a stranger. I’m afraid she’s going to become too attached to us and that is never any good. On my way to the shower I think about all of this, and more.

While reflecting in the shower I begin to think, the mind is a prison and I’m constantly reminded of that. After about 45 minutes I decide to stop and look at myself in the mirror for quite a bit, I do this a lot because my appearance has always meant a lot to me. I don’t know why, but I can’t help looking at myself, I’m not used to being very presentable and I most certainly want to be today.

Even the thought of having coffee with Lilah makes me nervous, she’s beautiful, and almost a dream I haven’t woken up from yet. I say she’s beautiful whenever I describe her, but what does that really mean? Her hair is long; her pupils are big, brown and vulnerable. Everything about her makes me want to understand her even more, beauty is just an understatement, it’s a filler. There’s this longing for companionship within me, a need for someone to understand the questions I ask myself everyday, not someone with an answer but someone to hear those questions and be there when I want to finally respond. I don’t know really, this is all quite poetic.

As I get dressed I take one final look into the mirror and leave, I spend far too much time wanting to be handsome that I forget that there’s a world out there that doesn’t revolve around me.

road

It’s a half an hour walk into town, I get dehydrated quickly,  so I stop at several fountains. The wind is picking up, however, and clouds are beginning to form, I head into the local Starbucks where I said I’d meet Lilah. I’m early as I always am and it’s busy as usual, flooded with people walking by. I stand waiting for a table to open up. I look around at all the faces, intrigued by them. For a moment I wonder about them, I wonder about their families, I want to know about their insecurities, their worries, fears, ambitions and sadness. I’m sure they’re all just wanderers like me. I’m sure they don’t have much idea of where they’re going like me. At least I hope so.

A table finally opens up and I make sure I pick up a newspaper to read just so I look a little intellectual as I sit. Its pathetic but it certainly helps with conversations. There’s nothing in there but various depressing examples of the current state of society. That seems to be my favorite topic of late. Before I could turn to the next page I notice her walking in from the corner of my eye, I try not to notice because I want her to notice me first. She eventually finds me and makes her way over. I look up, smile and she says,

“I didn’t know you read.”

“Neither did I” I say.

“Sometimes I’m surprised of myself too” she says. “So what’s happening today?”

“Not much but the usual, you know. We’re in the recession, people are not happy with the government, people are not happy with people, crime is still pretty bad, children are still dying, drugs are still being dealt on the streets, murderers are still murdering and oh there’s a McDonalds opening nearby.”

Lilah laughs again, I like how she appreciates my sense of humor.

“Yeah, we could really use another McDonalds” she says.

We both get up and grab something to drink, she has a coffee and I question it because it’s so hot outside. Apparently she drinks it any time of the year. I have a smoothie, we both sit back down and share a brief moment of silence before she breaks out into a rant about how her week went—we haven’t seen each other in a month.

I met her here. I noticed that she was having difficulty connecting to the Wi-Fi so I helped and struck up a conversation. Ever since then I always find myself wondering how she is. I haven’t had much real exposure to her personality, we don’t really text often because I find texting to be a horrible form of communication.

Lilah continues to talk about what’s going on around her, the things that worry and annoy her, she tells me something about her professor at college. I’m trying to engage in conversation, however I find my mind wandering elsewhere, I guess it’s because I feel uneasy, there’s something in the air. Trying to concentrate, I nod my head every time I see her pulling different facial expressions. She catches me off guard when she asks me an opinion of a story she just told me.

“… Yeah it was really awful, what do you think I should do about all this?”

I had to think quickly so I gave a general answer.

“uh, yeah from what it sounds like it seems that there’s something you need to give time to, you have to devote more time to yourself, can’t be too concerned with others and you seem like you will eventually know what to do, you know?”

She smiles and says, “you really know what to say don’t you?”

I nodded, laughed a little and took another sip of my smoothie. Throughout our conversation I found out that she doesn’t come from a “good” family, her father works all the time trying to support herand pay off debts he’s had for the last decade. Her mother passed away at childbirth, her eyes lower whenever she tries to explain her feelings about that. I think she feels guilty, her father makes her feel that way at times, it angers me to hear that. I find out that she was previously engaged to this guy Stephen, I find out Stephen didn’t have much going on with him either, she explained that they needed each other then. They didn’t treat each other well. Stephen would abuse her, verbally and physically. Lilah had to move; she’s on her own now, living in someone’s basement. Despite all the trauma in her life she still seems to be happy, even if she’s not, she has a good way of hiding her darker thoughts, and I know she has them.

The day seems to be going by rather quickly, I’m holding Lilah’s hand as we continue to sit and talk for hours. It seems as though many guys have treated her badly. Many girls have treated me badly, so how’s this one going to end? After getting stuff off her mind, she begins interrogating me about life and its greater meaning.

“So, like, what do you believe in?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like god & stuff, do you have a religion?”

I hesitate  but I eventually say no.

Lilah pauses for a moment and says “So you’re an atheist then?”

“No”

“Then what are you?”

“I don’t know, nothing actually. Yeah, I’m nothing. I don’t associate myself with anything religion or any kind of label, I don’t think there’s a higher power, there’s no special meaning to life. I think we’re born, we live, we die and in between that we have these lives that we decide whether to go on with or not, living is our only option. I guess I just don’t talk about it”

“Fair enough, Silas. That sounds convincing. I think that too sometimes”

Lilah takes that all in, it’s hard to digest. I don’t think it’s convincing at all, I’m not convinced myself. I’m still holding her hand.

“What about you Lilah? What do you believe in?”

“Uh, people, I believe in the goodness within humans. The greatest people in the world have something they believe in you know? Compassion and integrity are what I look at in people, it’s love essentially. I’d like to think that someone’s watching over us, it comforts me. It helps me, I know it sounds stupid”

“No its not, it sounds beautiful. Kind of Inspiring and insightful, I wish I were more like you. I wish I could be more optimistic about things. Its something I lack.”

We both find similarity within our differences. Its quite strange.

can

Lilah has to get to work, she has quite a long shift ahead of her, and she expressed her gratitude for my spending time with her. Honestly, it was the best time I’ve spent in a while. I drop her off at the bus stop; she gets on, looks at me and waves. I go back into Starbucks because it starts to rain, and looks like it’s only going to get worse.

***

I’m waiting for Seth, an old friend of mine. We haven’t seen each other in months and it’s simply because I’ve been avoiding him, which does make me feel extremely guilty because there was a time when we were very close. We grew up together and learned from each other at a very young age, we both still cherish our friendship but I’m finding myself straying away. He’s heading down a path of self-destruction, it’s difficult to see someone you love go through that. It’s like I’m just watching him die from the sidelines. He’s a high school dropout and delivers pizza’s full time. At least he’s working but this wasn’t the plan at all.

Despite all this I want to see him again, just to let him know I’m still around. I see him pull up in an old SUV. He beeps his horn a few times, I come out and I get in the backseat because there’s the pizza he’s delivering in the passenger seat. All I see are album cases all over the place, he listens to the likes of Dr Dre, Biggie and a whole lot of Eminem. The love for hip-hop is something we share. Seth is pale and skinny, his eyes are red and he stinks. We arrive at an empty parking lot, he has pot and we both smoke up. We “puff puff “pass for a while, it’s become our favorite activity. There’s nothing else that we can do, nothing else that interests him.

We begin to reminisce on the simpler times, Seth would defend me against bullies, and he exposed me to the fun things in life, the mischievous things that eventually became serious things. I couldn’t keep up with it any longer.

“Remember when I would take all the girls you’d have huge crushes on?! Ahaha they would always break your heart, Silas, all because of me”

I laugh at the absurdity of the memory as I was always caught up with wanting to have a girlfriend and I could never get one.

“It was always you, they all wanted you,”I said and then laughed hysterically.

“I don’t know why man, all I did was treat them like shit, they would have been better off with you mate.”

He passed me the joint and I thought about that.

“But Seth, we were only like 10”

“Oh yeah.” We both laughed.

We were really high. I want to know how he is though; I feel a distance between us, made more apparent in the silences, as though there’s some sort of confession one should be making.

“So how’s life man?” I ask, scared to hear the answer.

“Fucked man, seriously there’s nothing for me anymore”

“What do you mean nothing?”

“This girl Kate that I spent one night with is now pregnant, I know I’m the father, my mom doesn’t talk to me anymore, doesn’t give me money anymore, and all I have left is this job to live on. I swear to God man I don’t have anything, I live in this fucking car. I’m out of the house, I have a cousin that I stay with from time to time and all he does is sell coke man, you must be really disappointed in me, Si.”

Si was my nickname. He hasn’t called me that in years. Everything became serious all of a sudden. He became teary and told him it was okay to cry but he held in the tears as best he could. We drove around town for another hour, he would tell me things that would frighten me, frighten anyone who knows him

“I don’t feel like living sometimes, you know?” He says.

“I’m planning to get into better money, selling coke myself.” Its hard to hear that.

To actually find out that what you thought was going to happen to actually become true, I tried to convince him out of it. I was sick of talking about it because I can tell that things were getting to him.

“Its sad to see you like this, Seth”

“Its sad to see anyone as they are, Si”

I stop and think for a moment, I think he’s really high.

“What do you mean?”

“We’re all disappointments, we’re all devastated with each other. Its sad to see anyone as they are, they never live up to who they were going to be”

That was so profound I couldn’t even reply. He must be really high.

I told him to drop me off at my mothers; it was time to have dinner with her. It was still raining but not as hard anymore.

“She still a Jesus Freak?” Seth asks while smirking

“Yeah, yeah she is”

“She still with that douchebag?”

“Yeah, yeah she is”

You see, my mother became a born again Christian after the divorce, awakened to the idea of serving God and would go to the church all the time. She was and still is heavily involved in the Christian community and would attend many charity events. After 3 or 4 of them, she met Martin, a like-minded individual who has also been divorced and has two kids of his own. They fell madly in love and my mother would sell the family home, run off and live with him. Martin is an accountant, he’s very logical, sensible, responsible, dependable and an all round perfectionist. We never got along.

Seth knows all these details, as young kids he would come round our house and play, my mother was very fond of him. Then she became weird and Seth would be the only one who would understand what was going on. He dropped me off at their street, I got out, and told him to stay away from trouble and that I’ll see him around sometime. I really hope I don’t.

***

I’m still quite high, I need to sober up so I go to someone’s front lawn. Three doors down from Martin’s and I start rolling in the grass. I immediately regret the decision because I somehow forgot that the grass is wet from the rain that is still currently pouring. At least I don’t smell as bad. I arrive at the front door and knock. While waiting I look up and see how grand the property is, how elongated the door is. It was quite intimidating. The door opens and Martin’s daughter, Hannah, greets me, she tells me to come in and I do, she also hands me a towel because I’m still quite wet, I dry off and explain the reason why I have grass on my back, my excuse is that I slipped.

We don’t really talk because we don’t know each other well enough. I don’t think we say much, but we speak generally. She is the same age as I am so its easier, her brother Frederic however is much younger and can be quite annoying. I’m in the hallway and I take a look at all of the décor, quite extravagant and detailed, there are picture frames of Jesus in every room. This is the type of family to take Christmas seriously. My mom and Martin walk down the staircase and seem pleased to see me, I smile the best I could and shake Martin’s hands and hug mom. Frederic runs in and jumps on me, I pretend to enjoy the gesture and everyone finds it cute. We sit on a wonderfully prepared table, Hannah and Frederic sit and food was presented in front of me.

I was so hungry my eyes widened and my mouth began to salivate, I was ready for this roast. Before we got into it though we all had to close our eyes for grace, Frederic took it upon himself to recite a short verse,

“God, we thank you for this food, for rest at home, and all things good, like Silas coming to eat with us. Amen.”

My darned, non-believing heart drops, as I feel very warmed by Frederic’s words. I feel guilty too in some weird way. So we dig in and I viciously attack the leg of lamb. I feel their eyes on me, especially my mothers. I didn’t care at first, I was so famished but after a while I realize that I must keep it civil, I am in no position to act foolish now.

“Looking forward to college, Silas?” Martin asks out of nowhere.

“Yes, it should be good. I’m looking forward to studying and meeting new people.” kitchen

I gave a generic answer because I didn’t want to talk about anything that had to do with my life choices.

“Your mother tells me you want to become a filmmaker?’

“Something like that”

I keep eating, not wanting to explain why.

Martin nods his head.

“Hannah is going into law,” mom says.

“That’s great, why law?” I ask.

“Well, I like to argue and debate, it’s a passion of mine ever since I was little and now I feel confident enough to take that to the courtroom”

Hannah smiles, she seems proud of that answer and I keep eating.

“Why film-making though?” Martin asks with genuine interest.

“I don’t know, Martin, I like telling stories, there’s a lot that goes into the process of film, an idea is powerful especially when you can present it to people visually, it takes people to another world and that’s what I want to do.”

They both nod their heads and continue to eat.

“I think that’s really cool, Silas” Hannah says.

“That’s really cool! I like movies, have you made one already?” Frederic says.

“No, but one day maybe.”

I finish first, there’s an awkward silence watching and hearing other people eat at a dinner table. Everyone is so formal and quiet. Is it just because I’m around? If they’re normally like this everyday it would be awful, I couldn’t stand this normality. My mother has certainly gone through some changes but the calmness that she seems to have acquired does surprise me, she’s not angry as she used to be. We sit in the living room and we all have ice cream and cake, I’m have a sweet tooth so it’s perfect for me. Again we’re all very quiet, all I hear are the spoons hitting the bowls, the scrapes and the munches. It’s driving me crazy, I was just about to leave due to an early start I have tomorrow at Dairy Queen when mom suddenly says “we’re getting married, Silas.”

Everyone seemed surprised that she broke the news in such a strange fashion, but I can tell that she wanted to get something off her chest. When my mom needs to tell someone something she’s not patient and always needs to say it as quick as possible. Some things never change. They all put their bowls down except for Frederic, expecting the worse from me when I tell them that its fine and that I’m happy for them. I don’t know how to break it to dad though.

“You’re going to tell dad though, right?” I ask.

They both look at each other and she says “No, you should tell him Silas.”

I didn’t want to because it would do more damage to an already broken man. I hope he’s ready to hear this.

Just as I was about to thank them for the meal and leave, Martin starts being nice.

“You know, you’re a good kid Silas. You deserve much more than you have right now, why don’t you stay after we get married you move in with us and we can live as one big happy family”

It was weird to hear him being so nice to me, I refuse to live with them. My mother argued with me saying that the trailer park was no place for a young man to be living, I agreed.

“Who’s going to look after Dad though?I’m the only one who can, there’s no one else. He has no one else.”

“He can take care of him self, he’s a grown man with responsibilities, he should stop being useless and start getting on with his life.”

I looked at her with discontent; I didn’t like the idea of dad being on his own even though she was right. Its time for me to leave, it was getting late. Martin offers me a ride home but I say no, I want to walk. I like walking. I hugged and thank them for everything then left. I walk down the street and hear my mom trailing behind me.

“Silas, we forgot to tell you about church next week Sunday, get to ours at 11 we’ll take you, that’s if you don’t have work”

Mom yells I stick my thumb out and keep on walking. I probably will have to work.

Its pitch black now, all I see and hear are headlights and the coming and goings of cars. It’s peaceful though, it sounds like everyone has made it home from a sudden silence. I’m on my own now, left with my thoughts. This is where I’m the most self-conscious and doubtful of things, life in particular. Life is changing and I’m not sure how I feel about it, I guess I need to sleep it off. I’m always sleeping it off; sometimes it’s all I want to do. I’m half an hour away when I get this sudden burst of an appetite; I’m still hungry so I stop by at the local gas station to get a bag of m&m’s. I walk in look around, wave to the attendant. The colours of bottles that are in the fridge distract me; I lean in to get a closer look of the labels when I suddenly see the reflection of three masked men running in.

“Everyone get the fuck down!” One of them said.

I do as he says. God, not today. Any day of the year but they had to do this today of all days. I can’t see them, but I can tell they are new to this. They seem as scared as as I am. Your mind races at times like these. One of them runs and stands over me just to make sure I don’t run away. I feel an object being dug into my back, it’s a baseball bat and he really drives it into my spine. I close my eyes hoping that they will take what they need and leave. All I hear are the attendant’s panicky voice. He’s being verbally abused and says sorry whenever he messes up something. The cash register is being slammed opened and closed, the heist men take what they want. Pleased with the amount of money they have, I hear them take bottles of soda, they probably grabbed anything they could put in their pockets.

Out of nowhere I hear a smack to the face and a body hit the ground. Laughter fills the room, they all feel accomplished and I feel sick. Any day but today. Both of the men leave, the one with the baseball bat picks me up and takes me outside, he drags me behind the station. This is it, I know it. I could have gotten a ride home but no I had to walk it. I felt on the verge of tears,  but my life wasn’t flashing before my eyes. There was nothing to be proud of or to be thankful for; I felt the lowest of the low. I’m ready to die. The man pushes me against the wall. I’m squirming, trying to get out of this whole mess. He takes off his mask and I see a face all too familiar, all too recognizable, its Seth. I look into his eyes with disbelief. He leans in closer and whispers “Run”. He let me go and I do as he says.

I hear them get into a car; I hear the screeches. I keep running until I felt like I couldn’t inhale anymore. I throw up on the side of the road; I was so disturbed by what I just saw, I couldn’t understand it. My best friend is now a criminal, and he saved my life. If it weren’t him I would be dead by now. I keep on walking, replaying everything in my head. I was 10 minutes away from home and I just needed to collapse.

I never want to spend a Saturday not working. I was disappointed in him yet at the same time saddened for humans and people in general, I only see these things on TV. I never thought it could happen but it does, it really does. I walk into the trailer park and I’m ready to go in when I see our lights on, I see the shadows of my dad and Sarah arguing about something. The screams, the anger is obvious. I wait outside until it finally calms down.

Dad must’ve let himself down again, he does this a lot. My head hurts, it’s been a painful day. I just sit down on the lawn chair and see Sarah slam the door open, walking out furiously and crying hysterically. And behind her my Dad, trying to catch up to her but she ran and just left my dad standing in the middle of the park shirtless with no pants on, holding a bottle of Jack Daniels in his boxer shorts. He doesn’t care and neither do I to be honest. I watch him get on his knees and punch the ground.

“I’m sorry,” he yells. “I’m so sorry”.

He really looks sorry and I know he always will be. He turns around and spots me, he walks up to me wiping away his tears and sits next to me. He takes a swig and hands the bottle to me. I take it, I drink it too, I don’t like it but I drink it.

“How was mom Silas?” Dad says.

“Not bad, Dad, not bad at all”

He nods. “Did she say anything about me? Did you talk about me, did she say anything good about me?…. Wait. Don’t answer that.”

I look away into the distance and I don’t answer him. Avoiding the need to talk we shared a beautiful silence, we then both stared off in the distance and wonder where it all went wrong.

 

by Zain

photo by Yasmin Al-Samarrai

 

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