Dad brought a woman home for dinner one night.
“I met her in the supermarket,” Dad had told Pa that morning.
“…you don’t know her,” said Pa.
“I introduced myself. I invited her to come over.”
“It seemed polite…? It might be fun.”
“It’s not going to be fun, Alan Sebastian, it’s going to be incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. And why tonight? That’s not very long to get used to the idea and feel ready for it.”
“She’s not in town for very long. Should I tell her not to come?”
“No. I don’t think that would be polite.”
And so. She came.
Her name was Jasmine but she asked me to call her ‘Jazz’ and Dad told me she was Pa’s ex-girlfriend.
“You probably don’t even remember me,” says ‘Jazz’. “The last time I saw you I think you were two…two and a half?”
“Is that when you dated Pa?” I ask in horror and her eyes crinkle when she smiles and she looks at me like she likes me.
And maybe I am somehow two years old again because I want to scream at her and pull her stupid hair but Pa looks at me and he looks worried so I just smile back at her.
“Cool,” I say. But is not cool.
I try to keep myself together at dinner but I still feel about two years old instead of fourteen. Pa was right, it is very awkward but the grown-ups smiled and chat with each other as though this woman hasn’t ripped up like a weed through our family and torn my past apart.
They talk about people I don’t remember and things I wasn’t aware of. And they explain it all to Cello, because she wasn’t there at the time, but they don’t explain it to me. Which isn’t fair… because even though I was there, I wasn’t old enough to understand anything that was going on.
Nothing makes sense. Dad and Pa got together when I was a baby. I know that. I remember that. Don’t I? I don’t remember that. I wasn’t old enough to remember anything. I think I remember things but maybe I just made them up. That doesn’t feel good at all to think about.
It doesn’t make sense that Pa had a girlfriend because he loves Dad and he’s always loved Dad. It doesn’t make sense that Dad and Jazz didn’t know each other because Dad didn’t leave for Melbourne until after that.
Gran tries to argue that Jazz and Dad must have met before. Jazz shakes her head and Dad laughs like it is funny but Pa does not think it is funny. Pa is upset. I can tell. And Dad does not usually do things that upset Pa.
But they all keep talking as though nobody is upset.
“Do you think it should correctly be called a sparkling white wine supernova?” asks Pa.
“It is in the sky. Which means it is not in France, so yes.” says Dad.
But I don’t join in laughing about whether it would be a sparkling white dwarf wine or a sparkling white wine dwarf because I’m still thinking about Dad.
Dad invited her over and it upset Pa.
Dad laughed at dinner and it upset Pa.
“Wait. You slept with Michael’s Brother!? I did not know that. I did not know that,” says Pa and I think Dad will shake his head and say that wasn’t what he meant but he doesn’t.
“You had a girlfriend!” says Dad so sharply that I thought Pa might cry and Dad doesn’t normally raise his voice, neither of them do and suddenly I’m the one who is yelling.
“Why did you bring her here? Why did you do this?” I shout at him and I push my chair away from the table and I run to my room and scream into my pillow.
I know that Dad and Pa have not always been together. I know that Pa and Cello had sex and made me. But it’s always seemed an abstract thing. I exist because my parents love each other. And now Cello is here and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about her when I didn’t have to think about her at all for such a long time. She was just a photo and a name and now she’s a person in my house with a body and a smell and blue hair caught in my shower drain.
Pa had sex with Cello, and Pa dated Jasmine when I was a toddler and they probably had sex with each other and Dad had sex with somebody’s brother and it’s weird and confusing enough to think about sex when I am alone in my bedroom let alone being reminded that it’s something that my parents do. Probably all of the time. Then it turns out they’ve had all sorts of sex with other people and that’s even worse.
When I told my friends at school about Cello someone asked me if I thought my parents would get back together. My parents are together. But they weren’t always together. Dad and some guy. Pa and Cello. Pa and Jasmine. And Dad just let it happen and now it makes him laugh. And if Dad and Pa weren’t always together that means they could break up.
Dad is standing outside my room. “Are you okay, Mani?”
It doesn’t feel like Cello is my mum but meeting her reminds me that Dad isn’t really my Dad. Dad is only my Dad because we say he is. As soon as we stop saying it, it will no longer be true.
“Go away, Uncle Alan Sebastian.”
He looks at me like I slapped him and I close the door right in his face, and I want to throw myself on my bed and scream and cry again, but I can’t. I just slide down onto the floor and lean against the door.
My whole body feels numb, and there’s a sort of rushing in my ears but I can still hear voices just outside my room.
“Everyone is gone,” says Pa.
“He called me ‘Uncle Alan Sebastian’,” says Dad.
And I cry like like he’s leaving me. Like he’s leaving me again, like he left me before. He went away to Melbourne. I waited and waited for years for him to come back. And Pa always told me he would come back… but what if he hadn’t? What if he had stayed away and found a different boyfriend, and moved on. What if Pa had married Jasmine, and I had a boring kind of family instead of the one I have.
I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t have Dad, and that means I don’t really know who I am. I want to throw up. And that makes me think about how if Dad saw or heard me throw up he’d throw up too and that makes it hurt even more.
When I stop crying the house is quiet. I hear the front door close, and when I look outside my bedroom window I see Dad jogging away from the house.
I run to and out the door but I can’t see him.
“He’s just gone for a run,” Pa says.
“Dad!” I call out. Because even though I know he hasn’t left forever I still feel like he’s abandoned me. And it’s my fault, because I told him to.
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