1 de julio de 2014

We Need to Talk About Kevin (cita)

Early afternoon of my birthday, I was ordered to the backyard.

"Surprise!" When I was invited back in, I discovered that five of my friends had been sneaked in the front while I'd been trying to peek through the drawn kitchen curtains. In our bunted living room, they surrounded a card table spread with a paper lace cloth and set with colorful paper plates, beside which my mother had placed matching seating cards inscribed with the fluid calligraphy of her professional work. There were also store-bought party favors: miniature bamboo umbrellas, noisemakers that tongued and honked. The cake, too, was from a bakery, and she had dyed the lemonade a vivid pink to make it seem more festive.

Doubtless my mother saw my face fall. Children are so lousy at covering up. At the party, I was desultory, laconic. I opened and closed my umbrella and rapidly tired of it, which was odd; I had powerfully envied other girls who had gone to parties to which I hadn't been invited and returned to school with precisely these pink-and-blue parasols. Yet somehow it was revealed to me that they came in packets of ten in a plastic bag and could be purchased even by the likes of us, and that devalued the favors more than I could say. Two of the guests I did not much like; parents never get it right about your friends. The cake was sealed in fondant icing like a plastic puck, and flavorlessly sweet; my mother's baking was better. There were more presents than usual, but all I remember of them is that each was unaccountably disappointing. And I was visited by a prescient taste of adulthood, an unbracketed "No Exit" sensation, which rarely plagues children: that we were sitting in a room and there was nothing to say or do. The minute it was over, the floor messy with crumbs and wrapping, I cried.

I must sound spoiled, but I wasn't spoiled. Little had been made of my birthdays in the past. Looking back, I feel simply despicable, too. My mother had gone to so much trouble. Her business didn't make much money for the longest time; she would labor over one card for over an hour and then sell it for a quarter, a price at which her customers would still squawk. In terms of our family's midget economy, the outlay had been considerable. She must have been bewildered; if she were a different sort of parent, she'd have spanked my ungrateful behind. Whatever had I contemplated that in comparison made my surprise party such a letdown?

Nothing. Or nothing in particular, nothing that I could form concretely in my head. That was the problem. I had been awaiting something large and amorphous, a vast big thing so marvelous that I could not even imagine it. The party she threw was all too imaginable. For that matter, had she brought in a brass band and magicians I'd have still been crestfallen. There was no extravagance that would not have fallen short, because it would be finite and fixed, one thing and not another. It would be only what it was.

The point is, I don't know what exactly I'd foreseen would happen to me when Kevin was first hoisted to my breast. I hadn't foreseen anything exactly. I wanted what I could not imagine. I wanted to be transformed; I wanted to be transported. I wanted a door to open and a whole new vista to expand before me that I had never known was out there. I wanted nothing short of revelation, and revelation by its nature cannot be anticipated; it promises that to which we are not yet privy. But if I extracted one lesson from my tenth birthday party, it was that expectations are dangerous when they are both high and unformed.

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