Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take
Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.
***Dialogue scares the crap out of me, but I will give it a try!
“Well, I am sorry that my life does not revolve around YOU!” She slammed her fist on the table and caused the entire room to go silent. Friends and family knew this fight would ensure at some point, but they never thought it would be at the reunion.
Jake turned his head away from her and stiffened his gait, looking across the yard at nothing. People continued their conversations in a much lower tone, as to not miss a moment of this long-awaited interaction.
“Look at me, Jake. Don’t stop now! We obviously need to have this conversation”, Barb said as she touched his shoulder with the hopes he would turn around and engage her. She always supported her brother, no matter what trouble he got himself into; older siblings tend to do that for their young sisters and brothers. But it was just the two of them, Barb and Jake. She was all he had growing up, but he was all she could take now that they were grown.
“I know I am a drinker, sis. I know that I made some bad decisions. But turning me away like that? Not answering my call…” He lowered his head into his chest and shook it slowly. “That just was like spitting in my face when I needed you most. Thanks a lot.”
“How many phone calls at 3am do I need to take from you, listening to you mumble through your Captain Morgan slurs. You are 34 years old. GROW UP!” She began getting louder again, and this time she seemed more aware of her family looking at her. Embarrassment flushed her cheeks, but she would not back down. Not this time.
“Oh yeah, poor you. You and your perfect job, perfect marriage and fucking perfect son. So sorry to interrupt fucking Wonderland!”
“Don’t get all, ‘oh poor me’ now, Jake. This is all YOUR doing. All YOUR fault. I have every right to say that I refuse to accept calls at 3am and wake up my entire household because you decide to get arrested again. No thank you.” She felt herself shake. She would not let him see her cry again. Not anymore.
“You got to move away, ya know? You got to leave all of this crap behind you, leaving me to deal with Mom and her pills and her depression.”
“Like you ran away, leaving me to be the maid to clean, the doctor to pick her up off the floor when you decided to charge another $400 to her credit card, leaving her broke and breaking down. Seriously, did you think we were partying every time you decided to pick up and leave?”
The look in Jake’s eyes went from angry to enraged. Bringing up his past indiscretions is something Barb knew would get to him, but she hoped it was an example to wake him up, not beat him down.
“Of course you would, Barb. Fucking bring up the shit I did as a kid to hold me down. Ms. Perfect and her good grades and her Navy husband. Well, screw you. Try living on the streets, alone, hoping a shelter was open for you…”
“Or you could just hop in another chick’s bed and make another baby you don’t take care of”. Low blow. She knew it. She couldn’t help it. Aunt Judy stood up after that remark and gave Barb a disapproving look. Barb knew she had to take this conversation in a different direction.
“Listen, Jake. I don’t want to hurt you…”
“…but bring up my kids, that helps? Asshole.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. Last night when my phone rang, I knew it was you. I purposely did not pick up, is that what you want to hear. Now, do you want to know why?
“Seriously, do you want to know why?”
“What the hell, why Barb? Why didn’t you pick up the phone”. Sarcasm. His strongest personality trait.
“Because I wanted you to hit bottom, if you haven’t done that already. I wanted you to feel what it is like to be in your hometown, and be alone. I wanted you to…”, her eyes swelled with tears, but she swallowed the lump in her throat. No tears.
“…I wanted you to want to get some help.”
“Because drunk, at 3am, is when I would have this grand realization? Really? My God, you’re an idiot”. Jake stood up, walked to the beer cooler behind him and grabbed his fifth beer in two hours. He twisted the cap off, threw it into the trash and threw back his head dramatically to take his first sip, never taking his eyes off Barb, looking at her with disdain.
“Jake, I think you need to get some help for your drinking. Please, come and it so we can talk about this. I am here to help you”.
“Oh yeah, Ms. Reliable who doesn’t know how to pick up a phone. What do you propose that you can do for me?”
“Drive you to a treatment center. Today.” That last word hung in the humidity of the air, floating slowly toward Jake. When he realized what she said, he became more volatile.
“Are you fucking kidding me, Barb? A treatment center? TODAY? No and no. Who the hell has that kind of money to drop on a treatment center like that? You? Hell no. Certainly not me.” He turned his attention to the crowd, in their own conversations, but clearly taking notes on theirs.
“Do any of YOU have that kind of money? Do you ALL think I need help?”, he screamed at everyone in the yard. Aunts, uncles, cousins and alike, all who were so in tune to him when it was none of their business, slowly turned their heads. They wanted part of the story, not the responsibility.
“Well, there you have it, Barbie. No one fucking cares.”
“Except for me, Jake. I care.”
Those words stunned him. He stood, swaying back and forth, his cold beer bottle sweating over his left hand. Slowly he sits back down on the yellow folding chair, sets his beer bottle on the table, and rests his head in his hands.