28 November 2013

Tonight my cousin, who was seven and not my cousin, told me how quiet my voice is most of the time. I told her I get that a lot. “From everyone?” “From everyone.”

She looked up at the ceiling and kind of smiled funny before running back up the stairs to the living room. I was reading a book on my iPod for the first time when she ran back and curled up into the crook of my legs. She looked up and smiled her toothy smile, her two front teeth missing, and asked me how old I was. I smiled and asked her how old she thought I was, and she told me 12 or 13. I wondered how my cousins, who are seven and not my cousins, defined age. Maybe it’s how much time you spend sitting at the grown-ups table during family dinners, or maybe it’s how much time you spend reading a book by yourself in another room. Maybe I was still 12 or 13 because I always bring a book to read during family dinners, even now. I was kind of relieved that I was reading the book on my iPod, because the adults could look at me and sigh about my generation being “glued to their gadgets” and it was more like a secret between this book and I, which felt like an old friend I didn’t mind not talking to for years because I knew we’d pick up right where we left off.

My cousin followed me around the house everywhere, and she would come up to me and hug me and tell me she likes me and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I don’t like to be touched and how I don’t really know what to do when people tell me they like me, but for some reason I tried extra hard to pat her head and tell her I liked her too. I think family dinners are the biggest reminder that every family is broken and go through hard times, and we do things like these on holidays that mean something else because we’re broken together. And even though I wish we would be kinder to others when we say that we don’t like turkey or football, and that we don’t eat gluten and complain about the lack of gluten-free stuffing, I also understand that we’re broken together, and some things you just accept about each other because you still love them, even if you don’t like them.

I sat on the cool floor eating my dinner when they asked me why I was moving. I said that I forgot to wash my hands but really I got so anxious at the thought of answering that I couldn’t swallow my food and walked to the bathroom to spit it out. I thought about how eating food with other people makes me anxious, because I’m afraid of choking and being embarrassed, and how whenever I’m too anxious with a group of people I order soup because you can’t choke on that. There wasn’t soup at dinner tonight, so I ate slow and only after I told them why I was moving. Their faces were lovely and kind, and I wasn’t sure why I had been so anxious then. My cousin came over again and pretended to be a baby jaguar, and when my mom commented on how much energy she has, she smiled and said it was because she had the energy of twins. I looked at her, confused, and she smiled again and told us about her ghost twin, and I thought about how when I was little I would run up to strangers and not know what it meant to tell them my dad died. When my mom told me I used to do that, I could understand how that must’ve made people feel, but when my cousin told me hers I just felt like I knew, somehow. and I stretched out my hand to pat her head even though I don’t really like physical contact. She smiled kind of funny and ran up the stairs, and mingled with the clamor of plates and voices I could hear her mom telling her husband how she still doesn’t like football.

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