Twenty Seven (Errors in Prediction): An Autobiographical Short Story

I had the best birthday of my life when I turned twenty-seven. By that I mean, it wasn’t the best birthday of my life, in fact it was the worst, but sometimes, you can get away with a little irony, and say, it’s your best birthday ever.

I was down visiting family, my father’s mother, my grandmother.

The house was a catastrophe. It smelled strongly of cat shit, suffocating, toxic, overwhelming. You couldn’t walk into the house without gagging. At one point, my mother walked into the kitchen, where the smell was (with food, of all things …), and I caught her gagging. And I started laughing as a consequence, because I had just caught her gagging and just before that, I’d walked in on my grandmother while preparing to take a shower. Heavens knows I didn’t see anything, but nonetheless, it was a traumatizing encounter.

The day started out okay. I woke up early for me, at seven o’ clock, because my medications were being hokey, and refusing to work right for me that day. So, I got up, did what I always did, and wrote.

It was my birthday. Surely this was going to be a splendid day! Surely this was going to be a wonderful day, in fact.

Well, not quite. I walked to my parent’s room, and my father greeted me with innocent frustration. He said, “What do you need?” I told him the door was locked outside and I had to come around, as I needed to use the bathroom and brush my teeth. He understood, and was patient, but he didn’t say Happy Birthday, and he didn’t say really anything.

In the meantime, I’d gotten a ton of warm wishes on Facebook, to have a great birthday, but my day was becoming anything but that. The wonder and magic that they had in mind for me wasn’t … that, what I was experiencing. I guess that meant I wasn’t going on vacation to visit family my next birthday (I’m kidding).

Anyway, the warm wishes seeming kind of a strange counterpoint to the chaos I was experiencing, I did what I needed to, and then hung out for a little bit.

In the meantime, my grandmother had the opportunity to wish me a happy birthday, but she didn’t. That was fun. I was a little disappointed, I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t.

The day continued. I had written for the day, and things were falling into place (or falling out of place, depending on how you looked at it). Lunch time rolled around, and I crashed out in the meantime, because I’d woken up so early and I was tired. Which was understandable, except that I was also hungry, and wanted lunch. I woke up around one o’ clock, saw that my mother had called me, so, wondering if they’d gone somewhere without me, I called my mother in a frenzy, she didn’t answer, and so I called my Dad, and … he sounded horrible. He sounded sick, in fact, which was a bummer, because he’d gotten sick because of the cold I couldn’t prevent him from getting, the cold I was still trying to get over. And it was a disaster, because that cold was awful. I wouldn’t have wished that on anyone.

I also knew it meant we were probably not going to be celebrating much, because Father was sick.

Discouraged, I waited around for a little bit, knowing that my mother went to pick up some cold medication for my father, and when she came back, she came with a burger and fries from Sonic, and nothing for me. More discouraged, because I really wanted lunch, as I’d had a mediocre breakfast of apple and cinnamon oatmeal that had given me heartburn, of all things, I thought about why the fuck I was being a vegetarian around my parents, as I needed a special diet, and special food, but it was impossible because everything they were eating was meat-oriented. My mother did bring back a soup bowl, hot and spicy, which I couldn’t eat because it was spicy and because it would aggravate my heartburn.

Now frustrated, I hung around for a little bit, my mother gave me the rest of her fries. And she told me she’d bought me a cake. When we talked later, she told me that she was just trying to make the best of a bad situation, by buying me cake, for instance, because this was a catastrophe. What else did I expect, going on a highly unpredictable vacation with my parents and with grandmother who I wasn’t close with at all but was trying to be close with.

I honestly expected all of this to be a catastrophe, before the fact, because I knew my family, and knew things could get very nutty really quickly. But knowing something intellectually, making a prediction, doesn’t prepare you for that event unfolding, it seems. One small miscalculation, and you throw the entire system out of whack. Which I must admit, wasn’t fun for me to know.

So, I skipped lunch, and hung around in the trailer for a while. In the meantime, the door hadn’t shut, so three bees, a wasp, a spider, and flies had gotten inside the trailer where I was hanging out, where all my stuff was. I got the bees out, but the wasp scared me when I saw it, because it came out of nowhere, and the flies were just a nuisance, and the spider scared the crap out of me (being arachnophobic and all). Scaring out the bees was scary, and I ended up killing one, even though I liken myself to a Jain and try not to hurt even insects (ahimsa). But this one, while trying to free it without getting stung, I ended up smashing its stinger and having to kill it.

It was amazing fun.

I talked with my mother some more. She told me her frustrations with my grandmother, how she doesn’t do anything with us, and how she never celebrated my birthday. She lamented how troubling it was that we just weren’t close to her, not because we hadn’t tried, but because she wouldn’t give us a chance. We debated going to Lubbock to visit my mother’s mother, my other grandmother, but we didn’t want to make my father mad, so this wasn’t, most likely, going to happen.

I went back in to the trailer and hung around, listened to a podcast, called my grandmother and told her how terrible the situation was, and we laughed. No, it wasn’t ideal: bees and wasps and spiders, cat shit, hunger, birthday blues: It was miserable.

But at least she made me laugh, and said it would be a birthday I would certainly remember.

It made me sad because I wanted to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday, which was the day after, and my uncle’s birthday, which was the same day as mine. But it was because my dad had ideas about what we were doing on vacation.

Time passed, and my mother sent me a text and said we’d go to dinner around five-thirty. That was soon. I prepared, and then we went.

We went to a decent Mexican restaurant. I thought it would taste better than it did, but it didn’t. I got chili rillenos, which were okay. Actually, they were dull, bland. But, I was determined to have a positive attitude, so I listened to my family talk, and ate, and tried to enjoy the meal.

Then I told them about a dream I’d had the night before. Carl Jung was on my mind, for many reasons, many good reasons.

Basically, the dream was fascinating. My family was celebrating my birthday, and they gave me a book called “Archetypes” by Carl Jung, which was a book that looked as though you could get it at a used bookstore. I told them how the book was nice, had a nice vintage feel to it, and then the book later on in the dream began to sprout candy and was actually more than one book, books that fell off in layers and were wrapped up. It was a cool dream.

My father, upon me mentioning Carl Jung, asked the significance of him. I told them he was a psychologist and he was famous for developing his theory of the archetypes. I brought him up because of The X-Files episode Milagro. My mother told me Milagro meant miracle, which was cool, and I told them about the cool writer in that episode that really inspired me. He didn’t have any furniture because he wrote all the time, and didn’t have food because he lived in his head. He was a writer, so all he needed to do to survive was tell stories. My father said it was a spiritual episode, I asked what he meant, he said it was just spiritual.

I told them my favorite quote in the episode, where the writer told Mulder that sometimes, the characters choose the writer. I loved that quote. It was awesome.

But I brought up Carl Jung for other reasons.

In the meantime, the staff surprised me by bringing out a desert apple cake with ice cream on top, and singing “Happy Birthday!” to me. This was the highlight of my birthday. The owner of the restaurant was nice, to be sure, and generous.

We went up to pay, and they started talking about being old, about me turning twenty-seven and how that was young, and I recalled a woman who knew Carl Jung talking about how Jung told them to appreciate their old age, and how the woman didn’t appreciate it until she broke her leg. I recounted some of this, wrapping around the theme of why Carl Jung was on my mind: the dream, the references to age, my interest in the symbolism and archetype theory of Jung, my interest in the intellectual, and my love for The X-Files.

Anyway, I felt a little bit better. We went home, after driving around for a little while, after me learning a Bodega was a store that sold special Spanish items, learning this from my mother.

We went home, I hung out some, my father went to rest. I remember seeing some kids playing in a front yard, and my heart leapt. The kids were a highlight. I knew I couldn’t play with them, but they reminded me of a podcast I’d listened to a few days before, where the speaker described how Nietzsche had a third stage in the evolution of a human, where you become a child, a child at play, and this reminded me of my goal to be exuberant and energetic and playful, like a child. A tall order, especially for a serious fucker like myself, but I wasn’t about to give up on my dream.

Later, we played cards, Uno. It started out well enough. We were just playing around. I started using jokes from my novel Contorted Royal. Unpsychiatry. Crazyland crazies in a mad mad world madhouse. Falling down the rabbit hole. He he he, ha ha ha, ho ho ho. Jokes like that. It was fun, but it lost its edge after a while, and this was a blatant error in calculation, in prediction.

So, I brought out Siri, and started talking to Siri. “Hey, Siri: Call my girlfriend.” (No girlfriend to call, was he response …) This was a reference to a joke, where Siri responds to a guy who asks this question to Siri with, “Which one?” and he then breaks out into an evil grin, damn it feels good to be a gangster.

I said other stuff as well, looking for the intelligent, the intellectual. I asked Siri to define quantum mechanics. I asked Siri to define Aristotelean logic. These searches brought up complex definitions, but that was what I wanted. I needed to hear upscale language. I always found it soothing in difficult situations. I resort to the intellectual to find comfort, it’s a coping mechanism, why I read so much and study so much. In the meantime, I was reading up on the philosophy of ability, and how the intellect doesn’t deal with the will while activity/action in regards to ability does. I thought this was interesting, because I was going to make my intellect use will. I learned that when talking about the modality of action, keep in mind that there is the actual and the potential. I learned about Aristotle, and that he said that it was ridiculous to assume that just because you don’t use your ability, doesn’t mean you don’t have it. And other interesting stuff, such as extension, conditionals, etc.

I had a hunger, at this point, then, of maximizing my intelligence, and maximizing my determination, my will, my humor, ultimately, my desire to be a child at play again. I’d had a miserable day, on my birthday of all days, so it was the least I could do.

We continued to play, and then they told me I shouldn’t talk to Siri when there were two live people to play with. I told them I was trying to get Siri to make jokes. My mother said I was an ungrateful child, and it was hard to tell if she was kidding. Anyway, comments were hurled, and I got more and more on edge, and finally left the game.

My mother asked me if I was going to eat cake, as we’d planned, I didn’t respond, though. When she said she asked me a question, I told her, “I need a cool down period.” She then said she was going to bed.

Well, frustrated beyond belief at my failure at prediction and calculation, I went back to the trailer, took my medication, and hung out. My mother came, and she explained her stance, which was that it was just awkward being around someone we were just never close with. It’s hard to be close in the Sunflower Room (where we were at) with family when you just aren’t close. As I’d said earlier, some things you can’t fix, and my mother told me, some things aren’t worth fixing.

What a catastrophe.

So, I cooled down by taking a shower and getting ready for bed, and then making a YouTube video on Truth. It was fun. It was meaningful. And, one of the rare highlights of the day.

Then I went back to the trailer after getting lost for about half an hour, and tried to fall asleep. I fell asleep late, but mercifully, fell asleep, completing the first day of my twenty-seventh year.

What a blast!

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