Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tales From the Old New Land: Enjoy Every Sandwich: Most of Chapter 1

(A new project... one that obviously begins quite depressingly, and will hopefully move further and further out, less depressingly I promise, to take on greater and greater swaths of the Baltimore, Jewish, and human populations. Long may it flourish!)

On Monday, September 15th, 2008, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch. Oil dropped below $100 a barrel, the Federal Reserve decided not to raise interest rates, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average went down 498.96 points. On Tuesday, September 16th, 2008, the Fed loaned American International Group 85 billion dollars, and the Dow went up with the news 153.4 points. On Wednesday, September 17th, 2008, every bank decided to stop lending to one another, cash flow became non-existent, which raised the cost of capital significantly. Washington Mutual announced it was for sale, Morgan Stanley shares went down 24 percent, Goldman Sachs went down 14. Morgan Stanley and Wachovia entered negotiations for a merger, the price of Gold went up 8 percent, and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a band on "Naked Short Selling" - a practice of selling an asset without first borrowing money to guarantee the asset's security. The Dow went down 446.92 points. On Thursday, September 18th, 2008, the world's central banks worked together up to inject 180 billion more dollars into the global marketplace so that cash could change hands more easily. The Bank of Japan injected $60 billion, the European Central bank injected $55 billion, the Bank of England injected $40 billion, the Swiss National Bank injected $15 billion, the Bank of Canada injected $10 billion. The Dow went up 410.68 points. On Friday, September 19th, 2008, President George W. Bush announced a plan for the Federal Government to buy up all the troubled assets in American finance. Money Market Funds, mutual funds that invest in low-risk low yield assets like US Treasury Bonds and unsecure corporate promissory notes, offered capital for protection. The Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Corporation, known to the public as Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, announced that they would increase purchases of mortgage backed securities. The SEC banned nearly 800 different financial firms wholesale from short selling, the practice of selling assets that are not their own. The Dow went up another 360.93 points, closing the at eleven thousand, three-hundred eighty-eight point four four points, forty-three point eight eight points higher than they began this infamously troubled week. 

On Saturday, September 20th, 2008, AC Charlap sat in the high-priced Latin American bistro, Citron Cafe, a three and a half block walk from his house in Takoma Park, an upper middle class neighborhood on the Maryland side of suburban Washington DC, known for its bourgeois bohemian population of Baby Boomers, a surfeit of aging flower children with balding scalps sporting pony tails and drooping female letters unsupported for decades, except by secure government jobs they'd all held for thirty years and the generous pensions which would briefly be theirs, though hardly as generous as the pensions rewarded their parents' civil servants. 

Citron Cafe was the equidistant bar from the house to the Takoma metro, where he would meet a friend of seven years standing; whom when they met in 2001 was a Republican Catholic deciding whether to enter the Priesthood, and in 2008 was a union organizer in a long-term relationship with a former lesbian so thoroughly open that he sat on the committee for a yearly open relationship convention in Virginia. AC Charlap could only surmise what one does at an open relationship convention, but from whatever little he could surmise, he wondered why anyone would need to go to the expense of an entire convention for it. 

This Catholic Polyamorous friend of Mr. Charlap took pity on him, Charlap had, after all, been pretty down on his luck, and therefore promised to buy him a drink after work. They lived in the same group house, but the house to which they'd both return to was not, in any sense, AC Charlap's house. It was, at least in most ways, the house of these particularly bohemian friends whom Charlap helped moved in two years earlier. The house was rented from a landlord was never dropped by without notice a few weeks in advance, so the house had free reign for whatever it wanted to do. If people wanted to eat shrooms and write on themselves for twelve hours, who could stop them? If couples wanted to have loud sex in a basement which had no door, for what reason shouldn't they? If people wanted to spend their paychecks ordering the latest technological developments in marijuana vaporization and salvia extracted to its purest essence, who besides them would sign for it? If they wanted to have a bunch of people over for a group session of drugs or sex or weird movies on the wall projector, who would be creeped out?

Whom but one? Charlap hardly partook of any such activities, in the Takoma House or anywhere else. but he was its designated guest-in-residence, a Luke Wilson to their Tenenbaums. Every time Charlap was lonely, he brought his violin over to their home, the dudes would bring out their guitars, and they'd do their thousandth version of Wonder Wall or Wagon Wheel or Waiter's Walk or Well I Wonder for which Charlap would do a 20 minute solo over their three chords. The guys who played with him and the girls who listened thought his playing was pretty impressive, but why was he so showy? Who was he trying to impress at such a low-key social gathering? 

Even so, it made up for the fact that the guitarists knew few songs that didn't start with the letter W and had little time to learn anything new. Charlap didn't know many songs either, whose tastes seemed to run toward a much more pretentious variety, the older the better. Classical being the music he claimed to love above all others, seemingly followed in a carefully managed hierarchy by Jazz and Folk, and then onto the various genres of popular music for which he always seemed to have an irritatingly cutting remark on the tip of his tongue. 

Nevertheless, for all his pontificating and airs, he was a surprisingly decent friend when he shut up, he was funny, he was smart, he was in need, he was a half-member of the house. If he didn't pay rent, he was still the living room's most reliable entertainment. So every time life got too difficult with Charlap's parents or roommates, he would decamp to their house for a few days at a time. Mr. Charlap was almost servilely grateful for their warmth. There was an unconditional acceptance to these people. No matter how unreliable, how ornery, how forgetful, how slovenly a person was, they found the good in him. He didn't understand them, they didn't understand him, but somehow, if he was not quite one of these people, he felt like an accepted and honored guest among the residents of the Takoma House. 

All of whom, to Mr. Charlap's great relief, were not Jewish. So Un-Jewish were they that most of them hailed from religious Christian and military families whose geographic locations could double as a traced outline and topography of the country. And from these far flung flyover places they'd escaped as only the smartest kid in town could to universities too prestigious for their less worldly parents to deny them access; access to those places which their parents wished God would have sent them rather than their children; instead of helping Dad run the garage after his second heart attack in the early 70's, or run it themselves and nurse Mom through her grief after Dad's third in the late 70's. If it was not in the Almighty's plan to lift them to among the blessed of this world, then at least the Creator had blessings in store for their offspring. Surely, their children were rebellious on occasion and the parents pretended not to notice the occasional smells of booze and grass coming from their rooms and clothes, but these are just phases that great kids always outgrow - we outgrew them, and they're definitely better than us. 

The Lord had, finally, shown that He appreciates their efforts on His behalf by sending their progeny to universities like Columbia and Brown, UC Santa Cruz and Berkeley, Oberlin and Vassar, Wellesley and Wesleyan, Swarthmore and Skidmore and Smith, on scholarship no less! Whereupon these blessed little soldiers in the Army of Christ discover such unblessed temptations as the Seven Major Eastern Religions; libertarianism, socialism, and anarchism; holistic health and superfoods, meditation and yoga; homosexuality and polyamory.

By sophomore year, these children return home for Christmas, usually with the wrong person accompanying them. What ensues is inevitable: the tears and animus and acrimony, the rancor and remonstration, the bile and betrayal. All too late, it occurs to the parents that these blessed beloveds were never gifts from God at all, and they've sown a hundred years of family misunderstanding in the blink of an eye. 

AC Charlap believed in no such grace, either from the pleasures of this world or from the blessings of the next, though how greatly he wished he believed either. He did not think much of these friends' beliefs, former or present, and true to his extreme propensity for self-sabotage, he let them know constantly in no uncertain terms - clearly attempting to gnaw under their skin like a Mosquito who scents blood - and occasionally succeeding. Nevertheless, however mischievous and combative he felt at times like being, and whatever the extremity of his differences with them, he knew that they would receive his Doubting Thomas offensives with a forbearance and charity that remained utterly Christian. There were friends whose minds Mr. Charlap respected more, because such friends were not so stupid as to tolerate his belligerence. More ambitious people, people with more instinct for self-preservation, people whose mission was to climb the ladder of worldly riches, knew by instinct to keep a certain distance from AC Charlap, who seemed to have the impulse control of a wild boar - blurting out what should never be said, making scenes that should never be made, and then apologizing no later than they were over for weeks at a time, long past the moment everyone would have forgotten what he said and would rather not be reminded. But these friends, with their tolerance for difference which they no doubt carried to an extreme, were the only friends whom he knew would forgive him enough to consistently offer him shelter and food every day when he screwed his life up unforgivably. 

This Christian mercy was of a nature quite alien to his. There were ways in which AC Charlap was a highly gregarious sort, with far more intimates than a well-adjusted person should ever have, but he needed so many intimates because he was quarreling at any point with half his friends. These spats provided, as they always do to the dramatic sort, an endless font of narcissistically tragicomic material with which he could vent away and regale whatever friends with whom he was not feuding at the moment with juicily indiscreet observations about the object of his exaggerated ire, ire which would inevitably be turned upon the listeners a few weeks thereafter, when he would became hostilely indiscreet about them to the very friends who'd hurt him previously.  For minutes at a time, Mr. Charlap would not come up for air as his friends sat patiently, contentedly shutting their brains off as this amusingly theatrical friend of theirs found the drama within every insignificance, criticizing and witticizing his way through multi-paragraphed monologues allowing him, and hopefully them, to fancy himself a great wit, raconteur, provocateur with un air de grandeur. 

Whether or not Mr. Charlap was anything like as interesting as he fancied himself in his higher moments, he felt that life demonstrated an utter lack of interest in him. Perhaps he had some small reason to. Everyone in America deserves a chance at those hackneyed maxims of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The most shallow people, the most stupid, the most banal who had nothing of purpose to offer but be a microscopic albeit reliable cog in the Great Machine, had their needs looked after as any self-sustaining machine does to its component parts: a secure job, a secure family, a secure sense of meaning and purpose in this 'pick yourself up by the bootstraps' 'land of opportunity.' Give me your tired, your poor, your obedient, your boring, your stupid, your assholes, your creeps, the wretched refuse who bully the smart, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free from the tyranny of knowledge. In America where the powerful are bored and the secure are boring, what use is there of being interesting or interested? 

Lady Liberty lifted her lamp beside the Golden Door for all except those who might recall the storied pomp of ancient lands. In this demotic country where any man with enough strength can succeed, what use is there for a man whose true strength is that he's interested in things? Mr. Charlap's very demeanor seemed like that of an ambassador to 21st Century America from the 19th century leisure class - had you never met him, it would never occur to you that such a guy could exist. So very interested in so much was Mr. Charlap that hours would pass in talmudically reverent silence as he assorted and accumulated an endless fount of information in this ascendent Age of the Internet Rabbithole, with hundreds of books in his possession procured at significant expense the better to learn, to absorb, to inhale, to feast on his subjects which called to him like a siren to feast upon them as the blessed one day might upon the Leviathan. Interests in all those things for which no American makes time or has inclination: great music, great art, great literature, great theater, great cinema, great thought, great man history. Interests that inevitably made him late to jobs, to meetings, to appointments, to friends, to dates; if he remembered them at all, if he had anything like the courage to go through with them, if he could get past the knowledge that he would at best be late; worse, unprepared; worst, forget about it altogether as the apparently trivial questions which left all alone but he festered in his mind until he could have them answered. Interests that required a new credit card every month and half-a-dozen copied keys because the monthly loss of them was the one certain routine of his life. Interests ventured without outward effect or reward upon him except the better that he could hold his court as the Jester King to his audience of premier subjects in those few moments when he could prove his life worth something else than ineptitude, as he sermonized, solemnized, discussed and disquisited, monogolized and solilioquized, mansplained and whitesplained, straightsplained and monogasplained, Baltisplained and Jewsplained, and occasionally bluffsplained his way through all those subjects about which he had infinitely more space and time for knowledge than they. He didn't care whether they cared to know a whit what he does, perhaps he even preferred them slightly bored or angered. Were they to receive his discursions with equanimity, however could he know that his knowledge was purchased at a worth? Useless knowledge was his revenge upon their useful lives. 

Twenty six years old and looking ten years older, at very least; in the beginning stages of male pattern baldness and a gut protruding hugely for someone his age, causing him to slouch and sometimes wince with pain from the pressure his two-hundred twenty pound bulk put on his five-foot-four-and-a-half frame. No job since a summer internship in 2004. No romance since he winter of the same year - a brief ten day fling with a once good friend who promised to take his virginity when she came back from a party, at which she met a guy who was her boyfriend within two hours. No money, no place to live, no family. A homeless aristocrat. 

Only depression, the irreconcilable war of attrition on happiness from which many soldiers do not return - the quite diagnosed depressive, disabled son of an all-too-able father whose enormous feats of energy and self-belief helped propel his Baltimore family from immigrant penury to the lower-middle class to the upper-upper-upper-middle-class in only a generation.

The fights started early. Why aren't you getting up in the morning? Why aren't you getting out of the shower? Why are your teachers telling me you're not concentrating? Why are they telling me you haven't done your homework? Why aren't you practicing your violin? Why am I paying for your lessons if you're not going to practice? Why aren't you doing your homework? Why aren't you letting me help you with your homework? Why is your room a mess? Why are you watching TV? Why aren't your friends calling you? Why do you not want to go to your friends' houses? Why aren't you going to bed? 

Twenty years after they began, these questions showed few signs of answers if any, and posited themselves with the added urgency of age. There was a glimmer of respite when the younger Kharlap went off to college, but once he graduated, his juvenile indolence returned with adult vigor. For the first month after his return to his parents house, the older Kharlap would each pace faster around the first floor than the day before. When would the son begin to work? Give me a few days, said he with bemused exasperation, I just graduated from college! Don't I deserve it? Well yes, he does, but the elder Kharlap had heard the 'give me a few days' line so many times that the loud alarm bells tintinnabulated in his head with the overtones of his worst fears. Surely enough, a few days became a few weeks. Alef-Khet would go about the house with no pants for three days at a time, making a show of his all too much delight in ignoring the entreaties and pleads. A month went by, and Abba-Khet became desperate enough to cross the line of no return, and told him in an agitated tone that only a bum would wait this long to find a job. The son, seemingly so blithe about it all, exploded on him with the full force of a row in the BC - before college - era, thank god he shouted you make so much money, because it was the only thing you did right as a father.

Perhaps the devil you know is better. The Second Family War was always going to happen, it was only a question of when, so better now, the readiness is all: a second war of attrition with critical saturation bombing and approval sanctions with untold potential for collateral damage to allies and terrible reprisals. War would be extended to financial matters, non aligned parties like his wife would have to be convinced or irritated or guilted into compliance, you're either for us or against us. There might even, as there once were, be rows that occasionally extend to techniques that resemble other wars. War is the continuation of politics by other means, and the objective was to exhaust Alef-Khet Kharlap into discipline - discipline requires a armed force ready to fight at a moment's notice. War, by guile or by force, until the unconditional surrender we should have elicited from him ten years ago. However much he rails and fulminates, he will sue for peace after he's exhausted every other option. 

What bothered Abba-Khet was not simply the idleness, what bothered him was that his son felt entitled to it like a lazy aristocrat. Amerikanehs with all the privileges in the world thought they were the victims, and his son wasn't just one of them, he was a caricature of them. 

The father blamed himself nearly as much as he blamed Alef-Khet. Before the father even knew it, his net worth became the envy of all his acquaintances - something his friends claimed to know nothing about, yet to his delight his children reported sniggering jokes made at the expense of his millions at gatherings to which he was not invited. All this security acquired from a few decades when he first worked in Alef-Khet's grandfather's downstairs corner store as a kid, then helping him run a supermarket as a teenager, then co-owning two nursing homes with him as a young man, then using its sale after his father died to fund investments that paid off in the tech boom better than he could ever have dreamed. So large was this lump sum of money Alef-Khet's father sat atop in 2007 that he'd loan some of it to old friends in business whom he knew were less than reliable. Sure, he lost a few million here, a few million there, but it always seemed to grow back as reliably as a lizard regenerating its tail. But the more often it grew back, the more certain he was that it would disappear: for a rich guy, he was still fairly poor - just a couple handfuls of millions on his best days. His wealth was a castle built atop a volcano, liquid investments that evaporate whenever a hot market erupts in his general direction. Every time the lava incinerated someone else, he wondered when his time would come. 

Did he even want wealth? He deliberately cultivated a Jack Benny-like reputation for penny-pinching - the better to negotiate in business, the better to amuse his friends, the better to teach values to his children, the better to display his contempt for people grown torpid with freedom. Wealth was something he claimed to covet but secretly viewed with no little horror and occasionally wondered if he self-sabotaged to avoid. Twenty years ago, he was offered half of Ocean City for a song, he must have lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars. Thirty years ago, Yehuda Goldberg, his father's ex-business partner and distant cousin, who'd gone on to become a multi-gazillionaire in New Orleans, looked at the vacant properties of Federal Hill a from a water taxi in the Inner Harbor and told him to buy them all up immediately. In just the last ten years, Federal Hill, one the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore, turned into the very best. 

Yes, he did about as well as a businessman with no vision ever could. He could long since have returned to full-time business and make that big score which made his name the way it made Cousin Yehuda, but nobody wanted to end up like Yehuda Goldberg. He remembered the headline everyone read at the Shiva House exceedingly well, Jerome Gould-Montagne, as Yehuda was called in New Orleans, was shot in 1990 by an insane tenant who burned his body to the point of charring, and identified post-mortem only by his dental records. 

Why jeopardize everything? Were he successful, his children might grow still lazier. Were he a failure, who knows to what fate their laziness would doom them? No, best to live in this nether region neither wealthy nor upper middle class, where his children would be faced with the kind of stark decision of a person on the fault-line must always face - on one side of the line, an assumption of responsibility that gains everything, on the other, a laziness that loses it all. Wealth was decadent, and his family would be healthy. He'd routinely repeat own his father's great maxim, "All I have, I have for you", sometimes in Yiddish. But he surely did not grow his bank account for his wife and children to spend it, he grew it for them to live when all around them was death. 

Privilege was for other Jewish families, families more American than Jewish. Families that came over before the apocalyptic event. Families with no memory of what was and no sense of how easily it can all slip away. Families that will eventually intermarry and only realize when it's too late that they will never let you run away from us. Families preserved by luck from the ultimate knowledge, families that, should the time come again as it inevitably will (at least eventually) will be tossed into the sea with the oncoming tide. Weak families taken in by the American lie that all things are possible. Weak families taken in by cars and houses they can't afford, by toys the kids never play with and stereos the adults never play; too much pleasure and too little thought to who gives it, too much knowledge and too little effort to acquire it, too many things and too little questions about how they're made, too much wealth and too little consideration to who earns it, too much faith that things will work out and too little thought to the humiliating sacrifices and compromises that make it possible. Weak families that, when 'it' happens again, don't stand a chance. But yet again, this family will live, this family will not disappear, this family will remember.

His own father warned him many times against tempting the evil eye. His own father, who hid in a barn with his wife and sister-in-law from the Nazis for four years on a diet of a raw potato a day while giving their infant daughter up to a convent to learn to be a Catholic. His own father, who led the 1945 Rosh Hashana minyan of the thirty-seven from the three-thousand Jews of his Shtetl to survive with his reclaimed daughter at his side, only for the daughter to be dead of typhus by Yom Kippur, because every father had to sacrifice a child to the Moloch who demanded six million bodies for the sole crime of not getting to Amerikeh in time. His own father, who buried silver dollars in his back yard and warned him to never play the stock market, because stocks were the way that hustlers got respectable people to gamble. His own father, who warned him that he was spoiling his son, letting a gifted boy grow conceited and complacent with how smart he was when what he needed was the discipline to survive. 

He resented his own father for being right as much as his children resented him for the same. He didn't particularly push his son, not nearly as hard as his own father pushed him, and certainly how he pushed him was nothing compared to the way most parents of gifted children do, but would all these krenklach have been avoided if he had?

How could he have let a label like 'learning disabled' ever be affixed to such a gifted son? His son who could do algebra at three years old and read in three different languages at four? His son who memorized the names of the moons on Jupiter at five and quote Shakespeare at seven? His son who had perfect pitch at four, could harmonize on the piano at six, played violin like a professional at twelve, and sang like an opera singer the moment his voice changed? His son, whose teachers asked if he was deaf at four, who had to be pulled out of gifted and talented classes at seven, who had panic attacks at nine because he couldn't concentrate long enough to do ten math problems in an hour-and-a-half. His son, who at ten, still didn't tie his own shoes and at twelve, stopped even practicing violin. His son, who at thirteen would knock over furniture and scream at the top of his lungs for an hour at a stretch, and then cry inconsolably when he was punished slightly. His son, who was nearly expelled at fourteen for hitting the sweetest girl in his class and running away for a day when he was punished. His son who was suspended on the last day of class at his first high school for writing a letter to the class in which he told every member of his class exactly what he thought of them. His son, who at seventeen, told the foulest, most self-sabotaging lies about himself at his new school for no reason at all. His son who called home at twenty to tell us that there were demons flying around his dormroom. His son, the smartest and the stupidest person he'd met in his life, the highest and the lowest functioning person in a twenty-mile radius, the reward of a son he thought his wife might never allow him to have, and the punishment Hashem gave him for wanting a son so badly. 

Maybe he wasn't anywhere near as intelligent as we always thought he was. He's certainly nowhere near as intelligent as he thinks he is. It was so long since the promise of this illui was extinguished that all that was left of it was the festering remains of the long ago promise. A lazy and unserious, entitled and spoiled young man who hid behind a wall of psychobabble so he could morally abdicate his every responsibility, a caricature of everything Amerikeh is and a cosmic jest for thinking that the Kharlaps could cheat fate twice. What would have been so terrible if this boychik made a living selling shoes or flipping burgers? Why is he so much better than everybody

Everyone has their problems, and Amerikeh makes a religion out of them. We believed them, we took him to every doctor and he only got worse and worse. You don't cure a sickness by making the sickness define your life, and his son was a walking therapy session, using the world as his psychiatrist - blurting out every thought that came into his head, utterly missing the social cues that might make something of him if he noticed them, saying things on his best days that were so insulting that it's a wonder he had any friends at all. 

After Alef-Khet came two other sons - utterly, mercifully different from their brother. Smart, well-adjusted kinder with nothing particularly extraordinary about them. Like all the Yingeh Yids in Amerikeh: watching TV and playing video games, loving sports they can't play well and chasing girls who rarely call back, drinking beer in their friends' basements and soda in ours. We should have made them work harder, but looking after Alef-Khet was trouble enough.

Even when the other kinder had occasional tzoris, it all took a back seat to the main show. Alef-Khet had lived back home for almost three years, going to Washington every weekend so he could drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes like a vildeh khayeh, returning home every late Sunday night with his clothes stinking of them in a laundry pile which his father would inevitably be the one to wash. Sometimes it was a fight just to get him to take the laundry down. Once a month, the credit card bill would come, and that was a guaranteed fight. Once a year, the therapist would raise his rates, and that was guaranteed to be an explosion. Then there were the randomized fights about things as simple as asking Alef-Khet to set the table, or bringing hangers down to the basement to hang his clothes, or put on pants when company was over. You would think his mother would be as mad as he was, but she kept telling him to be patient. What has patience ever gotten us from him?

The worst fight yet was the one that happened after Pesach 2007. Alef-Khet had not said a word through either seder except the portions that were assigned for him to read aloud as they were to every member of the table. He wanted money to go visit his best friend in New England. His father told him the simple truth. He didn't deserve to go. People with middle class jobs can afford vacations to New England, but he had no job and no means to do it. Who could possibly deny the truth of that statement? Here was a twenty-five year old man living on the charity of parents who still give him everything and ask for bupkes in return, and still it was not enough. What other parent loves their child so much that they would still do everything for them? And still, it was not enough. What other parent would have supported Alef-Khet through so many explosions, so much ingratitude, so much hostility, we never stopping loving him no matter how horrible a son he was. And still it was not enough. 

Alef-Khet exploded as he always did, yelling through his bawling that every day of his life was torture and all he was asking for was a little respite, but couldn't get it because his father loves money more than he loves his children. Abba-Khet exploded back, telling his son that he was a leech who demanded his help every hour of every day but did nothing to earn it. Alef-Khet said he'd order the ticket anyway, so Abba-Khet went to the computer to cancel Alef's credit card, while Alef-Khet cut up his credit card to show how little he cared about the money before Abba could cancel it. 

Alef-Khet lost the battle, and he knew it. His father was making more sense than ever, he knew that objectively speaking, he was every bit the leech and ingrate his father told him he was. And yet if there were a switch in his mind to become something different, he'd never located it. He was a loser, he was always a loser, and he would always be a loser. What was there to do?

Something he never did before. He told his mother that he did not feel in control of what he might do to himself. He obviously could not live cooped up any longer in the same house as his father, especially after his father had cut him off, and by no means could he venture in this state into the terrifying world which destroys even the strong. As always, she gave him an enormous hug as he cried into her shoulder, told him that of course they'd order a new credit card when Dad calms down, and bided her time before she'd sit down with Alef-Khet to find ways to curb his expenses when he was in a better frame of mind. But Abba-Khet's patience was long since exhausted. Who could possibly blame him?

Alef-Khet repeated the same warning to his father. But what, to his mother, seemed like a loud alarm bell, sounded to his father like a threat. War is war, and he would not be intimidated by threats or manipulation, especially not by Kamikaze pilots or suicide bombers; and not even Alef-Khet was stupid enough to take war to this level. So Alef-Khet stormed off and went to his room upstairs, and his parents assured each other that this would all blow over in a bit. 

Alef-Khet returned twenty minutes later, announced that he'd swallowed somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-five Tylenol, and was afraid he'd swallow more when his stomach felt up to it. He had held himself hostage, demonstrating a literal willingness to kill himself unless the situation changes. 

He spent the next little while in the protective custody in Sheppard Pratt Inpatient Care, amazingly, his first trip there. His whole family visited him every day. On the fourth day, he was told he was to receive electro-shock therapy, and learned with only minutes to go that the lists were confused and actually was supposed to be released immediately. He returned home to an enormous steak dinner, everyone was in good humor, everyone was thankful to be with everyone else. 

It was, of course, not long until the fights started back up. Was it even a week? Three days? Twelve hours? However long it was, Alef-Khet's mother knew that for the sake of family harmony, she had to get Alef-Khet out of the house and into an apartment. The further away, the better. Alef-Khet had many friends in DC, so why not get him to move down there. It obviously would have been much cheaper to have Alef-Khet move in with his friends, but she knew that with Alef-Khet's moodswings, his slovenly habits, his density in the face of all organizational challenges, moving in with friends would be a disaster in itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment