Even in the tiniest parts of our social interaction, there is an element of competition.
After all, not washing almost every pill you find in the family medicine chest down with vodka in the middle of Christmas holiday will do when you want to outsmart David.
I don't relish in the feeling of winning the little social game for too long, though. I throw a lazy glance at the television screen that's across the room and feel the little hair at the back of my neck stand up as an image of a jumping crowd comes up.
We young people seem to have a radar in our heads, one that's able to spot every potential hype-starting thing or event in a thousand miles radius and pokes our skull from the inside when it finally does, offering a nice ticket for the bandwagon. After that, we buy tshirts with politicians, make excited faces and blog until we can taste the revolution on our tongues, not realizing that our grandchildren probably won't be interested in what we saw on TV on November 5th, 2008. I chew back a nihilistic smirk upon the thought of no new year coming. With the hype-searching radars of ours, there can't be that much time left for someone to make nuclear war the most appealing idea ever. Bombs are cool.
I snap back to reality and fix my eyes on the soup while David's Mom babbles on about the priest who did her son's funeral. Even though it's been almost two years since his touching and perfect sermon, he's apparently a close second to God himself.
I wonder what God's excuse is for making Dave kill himself, in his mother's eyes. At my age of seventeen, an own child's suicide is quite low on my tragedy list (it's ruled by things like Spice Girls reuniting or Blur not reuniting), but I can still imagine the pain and the
need to blame someone that it necessarily comes complete with.
I finish my soup deciding that, if nothing else, searching for someone to blame is a good reason for not caring that America has just elected its first coffee-coloured president.
"So, Linda, are you dating anyone?" David's Mom asks, destroying my ingenious plan of excusing myself and spending nice fifteen minutes in the bathroom, alternating between washing my hands and drying them under the air blower, simultaneously creating a
perfect prologue for later leaving for home before everyone else does, pretending I got sick.
"No, not really. Me and my boyfriend broke up two weeks ago," I reply, this time almost regretting the fact I'm doing better than team David yet again.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. What are you going to do?"
I shrug, unsure of how to answer to that. "His new girlfriend is a karateist, so maybe I'll just learn Judo and see if I can take her."
The table laughs politely at my attempt to joke and I give David ten points for being the funnier one when he still lived.
A dish covered in something I can't identify replaces the soup, making me sigh both in fear of my sneak-out plan becoming truer than I had intended and relief: because even though David's mother is obviously accusatorial towards me, as if I represented the thin possibility that her boy had killed himself because of falling in love with a cruel girl, she can't doom me now, while my mouth is full.
Ignoring the chopsticks (knowing all too well that texting on my cell phone is the most coordinated action I'm capable of – just like any other teenager) I quickly supply myself with a forkful of rice and whatever that is and passively engage in conversation between my Mom and David's father.
Unconsciously, my eyes shift to the television again and I get the feeling of foundation-less joy once more. The reporter is interviewing a little boy who I instantly identify with. We both know nothing about politics or finance or justice, neither of us could vote, but we still grin and put a Wooot behind every sentence that falls out of our mouths
when we're asked to say something.
When I return to my food, I catch a glimpse of David's Mom's expression before having the time to wonder how Japanese can survive on something like this.
She totally blames me, which makes me feel oddly blessed – would it mean that I'm some kind of hero if I managed to shoulder the guilt she loads me with? Maybe if I made a few more careless remarks, she'd sentence me for good and I could spare a fair amount of girlfriends of the world the glare I am given right now. In my state of mind, with the news feeding me ridiculous, alien hope, I can't bring myself to reject that idea.
I finish my food and fold my napkin neatly – what a pity Dad's not looking at me, this is a first.
"Looking forward to Christmas?" I ask Dave's Mom untactfully, following the scheme.
She smiles faintly, looking down. "No. We're not even planning on celebrating that much. Our holiday routine has... changed."
David's mother peeks at me from underneath her ruined eyelashes and the weight I've decided to carry gets thousand times heavier. I feel myself being dragged into an already lost struggle where there is no force great enough to hold onto things which are fading and no way of getting rid of things that refuse to go. It's no longer just glares, not just accusative thoughts – it's a whole torn-up life package complemented by the third bicycle no one uses anymore.
For a split second, I can see life through the woman's eyes. Everything gets strange and new, although nothing pierces the omnipresent shade of dullness.
David's Mom looks away when I excuse myself and stand up and from the way she forms her lips, I can tell she knows she's just won the evening match.