A Bunch of Bananas
By Jack Galmitz
I felt my wife hovering over my shoulder and when I turned toward her she thrust her mobile phone in my face. There was a young girl, maybe two years old, on the screen. Her mother was holding her. After looking at them, I asked my wife, “is that your son’s child and his wife?” and she laughed and said, “yes.”
I grumbled a bit because I really hated her son. The girl’s mother was speaking in Chinese and my wife explained that she was telling the girl to say hello to grandpa. The girl wasn’t shy, but she seemed indifferent to my face, indifferent to a new person. She was doing something with a string and just refused to look up and out towards me. Her mother repeatedly told her to say hi to grandpa.
“She’s just like her father,” I said. “She won’t acknowledge me. And she’s ornery.”
My wife laughed and spoke into the phone and told the girl to say hello.
Finally, the wife scanned the room with her own phone and I could see her family members eating their diner. One of the young women wore a hijab. They were Chinese Muslims and practiced their religion. Then I saw a man on a couch and I asked my wife, “is that his wife’s father?”
He was heavy, with some gray hair, and also showed disinterest in what was transpiring with his wife and daughter. Then I realized it was my wife’s son.
“My God, he looks so old and heavy.”
When he heard my voice on the conference call, he held his head immobile and then turned away from me. That was him all right. He lived for seventeen years in my house and now about five months of each year in the house in order to keep his green card and get his Social Security Disability. He never paid me a nickel, not for rent or food or electricity or for the phone. And a few years ago he settled a law suit which guaranteed him $50,000.00 a year tax free for as long as he lived and he never offered me any of it as some recompense for all I had allowed him to save before the accident.
Things had gotten so bad, he was so mentally disturbed and disruptive, that we came to blows the last time he was in our home and had my wife not stepped between us one or both of us would have suffered severe injury.
So there he was sitting and eating and turning his face from mine. That’s how far he had come in the few months since he left our home and returned to China.
I was distressed by seeing him. In a few months I was going to have to deal with a man who had saved a great deal of money in the bank and when he came back to the U.S. he was not going to hurry to buy a property for himself and his family. I knew he would refuse to rent a room for the few months he had to stay here and I would end up renting a room and contacting a lawyer about my standing in the house. My wife’s name was on the deed and I needed to know if I had the legal right to have him removed from the house.
Just thinking about it made me stressful. I had trouble breathing. And while I wanted to talk to my wife about how I felt, I had done so many times before without any compromise. Keeping my anger in was hurting me, but working myself into a frenzy and ending up threatening to divorce my wife unless she finally threw him out and made him make it on his own was only going to speed up the process of suffering from him. I decided it would have to wait until he was there and it all turned out as I knew it would.
My wife went back to the living room with her mobile phone and her conversations with internet friends. I returned to staring at my computer.
I could feel the tension in my muscles and I took two valium. They didn’t have an immediate effect, so I just felt myself breaking up inside. I returned to the same programs on the computer that I continued obsessively to look at every day. I was keeping track of the count of the dead from the novel coronavirus: it was already up to 120,000.
The last time my wife’s son was here I had thought of killing him. At that time, a gun shop in Kentucky was sending me emails about the guns they would ship to me if I bought them online. I imagined how pleasurable it would be to just crash in on him in the room he thought was his and shooting him in his chest and watching the expressions of shock and pain play on his face.
I decided to go out and get away from the home front. I decided to go to Union Square where people were assembling to march to City Hall to protest the killing of George Lloyd by the police in Minneapolis.. I wouldn’t carry a sign. My presence marching with everyone else would be sufficient to express my dismay and anger at the years of police killings of unarmed black men in the U.S. The movement had by now become international and people of all races in most countries were protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
Being with them would make me feel like I belonged to a group of likeminded people. By the time I got to the subway station, I had forgotten all about the future of my small family. I put aside my own problems and pursued a resolution to a greater one.