Growing up, I was always exposed to conversations about the smell of a friend’s, or family friend’s, home. A middle eastern family I visited had the mist of heavy, throaty, incense floating around, darkening hallways and making them look more like a scene in an old Arabian movie than a modern American home. A country within a country, as it were.
The first catalyst that set off a series of retrospect flashbacks was the scent of my parents’ home as soon as I stepped in. I wasn’t a particularly crazy child, but I do remember being loud and misunderstood (as children generally are. Except for Justin Bieber. Or as some people I know call him: Justine Bieber). In almost contradictory terms, I was mostly quiet. Short, abrupt outbursts of vocal emotions were scarcely heard. Definitely no more often than a detachment between my mind, heart, and soul, from my tongue.
The last time I visited my parents, I was with Daniel. I hadn’t yet told them that Daniel and I broke up because I wasn’t ready to feel the air change into scents of self-deprecation on my end, and allusions to disappointment coming from both my parents. I knew, after the subtle interrogation and not so subtle passes of judgment my parents subjected Daniel to, that they had taken a liking to him. And I didn’t know if Daniel told her, or if my mother could just smell a potential eternal bond bounded by rings, but I could sense that she felt we were going to be together forever. We were a family that loved a challenge, but this was probably the one time I didn’t want to prove my mother wrong.
I clearly didn’t want to leave any remnants of the thanksgiving food back home (I mean, how delish was that pumpkin-tasting butternut squash soup!?) but it was definitely hard practically force-feeding myself at this point. Although my mom does love it when people ate the food she cooked just as much as cooking; so, all the same, it was difficult to refuse and suffer the pursed lips of disappointment!
Steamy vegetables galore, mashed potatoes and potato salad, Greek salad, with lots of spices, red onions, kalamata olives and, most important ingredient, white sour cheese, mixed in with a lemon, salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of vinegar, dressing; and plain salad with an Italian dressing. Corn cobs spilling over a bowl too small for the volume of its contents, just enough times to convince my mother that we needed a bigger bowl. And, last but never the least, Turkey; with an assortment of gravy and cherry glaze on the side. A feast for just three people.
I was already beginning to compile the contents of the feast onto my plate when my mom came into the dining room telling me to stop. My dad, seated opposite me with his lips shut tightly, and like it had been sealed by a wrench, didn’t look pleased at all. Oddly enough, what came to my mind was the scene in Mean Girls when Regina George’s mother was taking pictures of her daughter in her slutty/sexy Halloween costume while her father stared hopelessly disappointed, on the verge of blubbering out his concerns and pleas in the form of tears and spits. Naturally, I thought it was something bad about me. Like I was misbehaving and they had to have a good sit down and talk with me. That was until I noticed a forth plate in my mom’s hand, placing it gently next to me. The thud of the plate onto the linen wooden table speaking a dull whisper of my thought, ‘fuck’.
“Now,” my mom started, “before you get angry with me, I want you to give this man a chance.”
My mouth opened gradually into an O-shape. A wrinkle between my eyebrows cementing the worry and disbelief.
“Don’t look at me like that. Chloe called and told us what happened.”
Oh. My. God. I could kill Chloe. I will kill her. Especially since Daniel would’ve been my savior in this ordeal.
“It’s not her fault,” my mom continued, frowning and as if hearing my own thoughts. “She’s just concerned and she cares about you. Just like your father and I.”
I flickered my eyes over to my father’s, he had that look of being in disagreement but unable to escape the tangle of this decision. I felt for him. My mom, although free-willing like free willy, had the strongest grasp on certain people. Always used to her advantage and to the involuntary participant’s fate.
I rolled my eyes and sighed. What else could I do but endure this already decided event.
My mom relaxed her brows from anticipation and then ran her mouth. “You remember Jeremy, right?”
“Jeremy?” I mumbled to myself. I racked and rattled my brain of its memories, trying to find a face to the name. In the end, I shrugged and shook my head.
My mom tsk-ed in a ‘how could you not know?’ sort of way. “He was in your elementary school? Followed you around a lot? Is the son of your aunt’s friend, Lucinda?”
I remained silent.
“The one who was synonymous with accidentally eating dog shit when he was a baby,” my dad said, loud and proud and smirking. As if the very thought of calling someone out for eating dog shit was both satisfying and amusing to him.
My mom, however, wasn’t pleased. She shot him a warning and disgruntled look. “Really?” she said. “There was no other way to remind her of him.”
“Well she’s reminded of him, isn’t she?”
Throughout their little tiff I thought of the one person that that story could be associated with. It didn’t take long though. There weren’t that many shit-eaters, at least not ones that I knew of in California.
Jeremy Palmer wasn’t only known for eating dog shit, but he was the kind of person that was always on everyone’s nerves as a kid. He even looked the part of the annoying nerd with round bottle glasses, magnified to the full extent, pimples all around, and a total metal mouth. The male version of Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed, back in her high school days. Except without the sympathy of an audience attached. He never attracted me in the slightest, but that wasn’t entirely based off his looks. Apart from being really young and only ever having little-girl-tingly-crushes, every time he saw me, he would always gear up the annoyance to Full Metal Alchemist! Once, on vacation, he followed me around the entire summer asking me whether or not I had a penis! I only ever once answered the topic of my genitalia with frustration, just so he could back off, which turned out to work against me. My mom had a sit down serious talk with me at one point asking me “what’s this business about you having a peepee?” She was just as confused as I was, believe me. It was a strange conversation for the both of us!
Before I had a chance to groan and plead for mercy, the doorbell rang. I walked alongside my mom for the sole purpose of begging for just that: mercy.
“You really shouldn’t hold that against him you know. You were both really young and cute.”
“It’s not even that, mom. Okay it’s partially that, but even so, Daniel and I just recently broke up. I don’t feel right right now.”
“Honestly, how will you know unless you give him a chance, Anna?”
“Mom…” I whined, the mechanism I deploy when I’m out of ideas.
“Anna, shh—” she flung the door open “—Jeremy!” she exclaimed in a sing-song voice, “so glad you could come! Anna, you remember, Jeremy?”
My mom didn’t want Jeremy to know that we were just talking about him a few seconds ago. It was her way of saying, this was the first time we mentioned him.
“Oh, Jeremy,” I smiled, shooting a gaze of deviousness towards my mom. “How could I forget?”
Immediately after the meet-and-(memory lane)-greet, texted Mark of the situation and then asked for his manly slut-it-up advice.
If my mom wasn’t going to budge then fine, two could play this game. Although I raise my right hand to declare right now, that I wouldn’t go so far as to eating dog shit just to put this man off.