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Jan 2011
in my family conversation is seldom thoughtful questioning filled with wonder quiet pauses instead it is sociable banter teasing goading spontaneous gratuitous remarks clever embellishment excessive flattery it is an ancient system passed down patronage pecking order nepotism sycophancy near to impossible for me to be honest in presence of their overwhelming vanity when it comes to family gatherings my voice isn’t very strong my family’s joking squelches my chirp they are each and all more loud sarcastic faster wittier more crude outrageous more funny loud gregarious sanguine Mom embarrasses herself with uncalled for flirtations (her mental state rapidly deteriorating) everyone laughs boisterously they snap kid exaggerate amplify taunt i can hardly get word in i need to repeat myself several times or more to be heard my voice is minor i struggle to tell story they listen politely then rush back into their rowdy repartee i am way too sincere way too naked in my ineptitude my stomach ties in knots biting lip shivering from cold fear what’s going to happen pitch black in front of me voice inside screams please i need help so bad please make it easier i’m lost in all this commotion drama hunger lack of clarity

Chicago 1980 Odysseus always revered cousin Chris is taller tan-skinned handsomer stronger protective of Odysseus knowing he is frivolous liability tags along with Chris and his prosperous trader friends advantaged echelon inherited wealth educated white young men they float above everyone else their tastes in clothes furnishings run Brooks Brothers Burberry Giorgio Armani Ralph Lauren John-Paul Gautier Paul Smith Emile Zegna Salvatore Ferragamo their preference in women run typically blonde large ******* tight butts make-up painted nails they think Odysseus is a freak because he usually chooses females none of them want Odysseus likes skinny girls flat chests glasses he knows he is an extraneous art pet to Chris and his group

Chris joins newly built state of art fitness facility pricey membership accesses all of Chicago’s fast track shakers movers politicians lawyers pretty people Odysseus has his limits he does not have money to join also he dislikes snooty elitism several times Chris invites Odysseus as guest Odysseus feels insecure outsider Chris always includes Odysseus pays for dinners they begin with round of doubles then 2nd round of doubles before glancing at menu Chris drinks Canadian Club on the rocks Odysseus follows they raucously order extravagant meals with appetizers 3rd 4th 5th rounds of doubles after pricey dinner at chic restaurant Chris’s group rendezvous at bar or club they order round of drinks tip lavishly sip drink glare around room leave barely touched drinks walk out with look of disdain they scavenge more bars in search of females or some intangible attraction Odysseus is never certain what they are looking for or what is the source of their contempt each wears black leather jacket carries huge wads of cash $20s $50s $100s folded stuffed in front pockets no wallets or clips

the Red Meat palace or Chang’s Szechwan grill are their favorite restaurants as many as 8 men sit at table pack mentality prevails for dessert course they pull out small brown bottles filled with ******* if it is Friday night Chris’s pad is frequently elected females other arrangements settle bill depart restaurant one night Odysseus arrives early at Chang’s wanders downstairs into women’s boutique salesgirl named Fiona greets him they hit it off he invites her to join him and his hosts upstairs after her shift is done Fiona arrives as dessert is about to be served table of men look desirously at Fiona beams Odysseus and Fiona along with Chris Phil Tom go to Odysseus’s place Fiona is perhaps 22 petite lovely with deep blue eyes set wide apart long eyelashes brown thick hair cut to shoulders high ******* pink ******* fragrance of linden flowers delighted by male attention Fiona ***** fondles each men are quite intoxicated Odysseus and Phil are only capable to sustain erections Odysseus stares mesmerized at Fiona’s extraordinarily swollen ***** she notices his fixation grins blushing men shout commands but in actuality Fiona is in charge reducing each of them to little boys vying for her attention near conclusion she requests they form circle around her ******* on her chest she fondles them touches herself men laugh mockingly as if to compensate for their lack of performance Tom picks up plastic dart gun aims it at Fiona she laughs crawls on all fours Tom fires dart hitting her on **** Phil grabs gun from Tom reloads another dart suddenly it feels like fraternity stunt Odysseus goes along offended by his own complicity to him episode feels more like men having *** with each other than being with a woman telephone rings it is Odysseus’s latest love pursuit she tells him she is on her way over everyone rushes to put on clothes change bed sheets they depart within minutes she arrives finally ready after weeks of romancing to put out for him after that night when Chris and Odysseus get buzzed in bar Chris routinely speaks the line to women have you ever been done by 2 cousins one night at Green River tavern woman squeezes milk from her ****** into shot glass dares cousins to drink Chris laughing turns down her offer Odysseus shoots back shot of milk then takes swig of Irish whiskey cousins go see Billy Idol at Odysseus’s insistence they stand near front stage young girls screaming after show driving home in Chris’s Fiat Spider Chris complains his ears are ringing i don’t know how i’ll be able to work tomorrow Odysseus nods like he hears hollers out window hey little sister shotgun!

Mom and Dad want their son to enjoy fruits of burgeoning affluence they feel certain what they are doing is best for him they rent quarter seat at Chicago Mercantile Exchange they originally promised full seat but they are overextended Odysseus enrolls in trading course he learns to trade Certificates of Deposit and Eurodollars which are recently established markets suddenly Odysseus has lots of cash his parents are dishing out he does not know what he is doing newly launched markets lack investment and fleece young men of their parent’s money his friends surroundings change he loses sight of himself he is a thoroughly incompetent trader bleeding cash scatters money between harebrained panicked trades or ******* girls $1000. wristwatch when Mom and Dad see jewelry they become furious in a way he represents his parent’s design for how to build successful son yet their plan is going dreadfully wrong he wants to stand up speak out against Dad and Mom he is not courageous enough to counter their weight he wants to express with more assurance his passion to pursue painting and writing isn’t fact he graduated from art school evidence enough of his aspirations commodities exchange is last place in the world he belongs Odysseus is risk taker but he is not aggressive or entrepreneurial only lesson he has learned with respect to his parents is how to run away

by all appearances cousin Chris is brilliant trader in reality Chris is hooked up with powerful crooked brokers they use him as their bagman he covers losing trades and is compensated or offsets winning side of profitable trades subsequently dealt his share Chris is not a criminal he stumbles into profit-making situation when certain conditions are flexible to advantages Chris is diligent hard worker the vast sums of money he earns do not distort his personality he is always generous shielding of Odysseus gold trading pit becomes so shady S.E.C. intervenes relinquishing exchange’s contract Chris and his bosses walk away unscathed having made their bundles

Mom and Aunt Rita run social itinerary for family including birthdays holidays all other gatherings where family will meet changes by the minute depending on Mom and Aunt Rita’s caprice checking in by telephone at least an hour before is mandatory arriving at destination Mom and Aunt Rita insist on specific table location seating arrangement it is important they be seen viewed by others at restaurant they never sit near kitchen or washrooms or where there is too much noise light away from drafts who sits next to who is crucial round tables are their favorite preferring backs to wall looking out so they can nod wave Mom rules from proud pedestal Dad upholds chain of command sometimes he irritably gripes Aunt Rita immediately comes to Mom’s defense Dad points finger back off Rita you’re way out of line where do you come up with a remark like that Mom mediates Max that’s enough in a way the sisters are spoiled little girls over-indulged by their father they believe their opinions and tastes are the best most correct everyone in family are subordinate to their no and don’t Mom and Aunt Rita routinely criticize Odysseus’s semantics oppose his observations critical of his clothes conduct they handily misconstrue his comments to mean fodder for their amusement Mom and Aunt Rita’s efforts to keep prim proper decorum cause resentment Odysseus feels constricted by his subservient role in drama of family he fails to understand their care

Odysseus busts out of markets leaving behind alarming debts for family to pay off he feels humiliation disgrace plunges into bottomless sleepless despair hides in house door locked window shutters shut phone rings unanswered hates life willfully wants to destroy himself there is no way out after week Chris comes by to see if he is all right Odysseus is reluctant to let Chris in Chris commands be a man get a grip on yourself Odysseus replies maybe i’m not a man he feels failure shame realizes he has become traitor to himself he wants to look at existence head on embrace it but all he knows are dishonor regret deception he conceives his being has been stolen he wants his life back but knows not how to recover it he feels deep in obligation to Mom and Dad thinks to escape from Chicago but his parent’s control is crushing he wakes late drinks black coffee smokes cigarettes marijuana hangs out alone sky changes from light to dark to light phone rings he reads Nietzsche Sartre frequents ***** Hole punk rock dive several blocks from residence becomes orphan of night drinking drugging

January 5 2011 30 years have passed Chris marries fathers son becomes best father to his child he can be leaves markets in late 80’s Dad dies in ’91 Odysseus leaves Chicago in 1994 he manages to paint some paintings write some words stomach ties in knots biting lip shivering from cold fear what’s going to happen ***** pink gray skies behind pitch black in front sometimes you need to take a step back in order to move forward Mom says she worried enough about money when she was younger and isn’t going to worry about it anymore her entire life she boasted i’m saving for my children but in the end she saved solely for herself Odysseus never learned to stand on his own all he ever wanted is to love and be loved he wonders what will happen next
michael reid rubenstein
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