Friday, April 8, 2016

A Desert of Emotions

“You got written up for showing emotion. Again. Didn’t you?”
The air was still and silent. A strong firm voice punctured the room as the man crumpled the paper in his hand and eyed the boy shuddering on the sofa. “Are you crying while I’m talking to you?”
                “I can’t help it, I swear!” Gregory looked up at his father’s blank expression. “What’s so wrong with—“
                “Stop crying and stop shaking!” The shout quieted the younger into a silence. He lowered his head and raised the end of his shirt to wipe away tears.
The older man reached toward the coffee table nearby. Gregory raised his head at the heavy sound of his father’s hand picking up the remote control from the surface.
“Son, I need to show you something.” Gregory expected the man’s neutral voice to become overpowered as he raised and pointed the device. But the living room was just as silent when the television turned on.
Gregory lifted his eyes to look at the screen. The small icon for the mute mode was displayed in the top right corner.  The channel was set to the local news. He waited for the channel to be changed, but his father’s figure only relaxed on the couch. Confusion wormed through Gregory’s mind.
Both people sat in silence. The brilliant light from the television painted tints and shadows across the living room walls. Minutes passed as they continued to stare at the screen.
The silence took a toll on Gregory’s nerves. He battled between making noise and not disturbing the imposed quiet.  
Finally, the young boy looked at his dad. “I can’t even hear—“
“I don’t want you to hear. I want you to look.” The older man never took his eyes off the screen.
Gregory balled his fists and willed himself to turn back to the television again. He joined his father in observing the figures on-screen. A pretty woman mouthed words and shifted as she talked before the camera panned to a male pointing at weather charts and a large map. Clips were shown the same news anchors. A small notion of understanding began to go through his mind.
Gregory suddenly sat up.
“Do you finally see it?”
“Yeah. Their faces. They’re blank. No emotion.”
“You got it.”
“But what’s the point of that?” Confusion swept over the young boy as he reclined on the sofa.
The older man cocked his head. “You know how guys are supposed to be ‘strong’? And girls are made fun of because they cry all the time?”
As Gregory nodded, the man continued. “Have you ever seen Henry Mason smile or frown?”
The boy thought about the wildly popular celebrity three years strong. “No.”
“What about Sylvia Benny?”
The richest woman in the world never displayed an ounce of passion. He shook his head again.
“Can you think of any celebrity who does?” When the boy was silent, the man sat back, satisfied. “That’s why they’re successful.”
“But why do people hate emotion so much?”
The man sighed. A single click resounded across the large room. The action threw them into complete darkness as the television turned off. But it was comforting to Gregory as he heard the words across from him.
“Son, it doesn’t matter why. Only that it does.”


“Hey dad!”
Gregory snapped out of the memory. He opened his eyes to watch as a pink shade came to his view. The small girl toddled forward in the flowing bright-colored dress as she greeted the inclined man in a camping chair. “A butterfly right there,” she said as her finger pointed to a nearby dandelion.
“Yes.” Gregory nodded as he watched the animal open and close its wings in an invisible beat. “Did you know they used to be called flutterbies, Jade?”
“Flutterbies!” The girl chirped. The voice caused a waver in the flower that propelled the animal into action.  Bubbly laughter permeated the air like a perfume as she pranced through the grass after the wavering creature. “Flutterbies!”
Gregory straightened from his chair. “Did I just catch you smiling?”
 “No.” The girl stopped her running and whipped around to look at him. The small voice was paired with wide eyes as she looked to her father.
“I better not. We’ve gone over this before, right?”
The small girl sighed and hung her head as she approached the talking figure. “Because it’s rude.”
“Then don’t do it again.”
“Okay.” The small girl’s face assumed a plain demeanor. “I won’t. I promise.”

“Atta girl.” He said, reaching to rub a hand over the short silky hair.

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