When I was eight years old, my uncle picked me up by my belt. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.
Granted, I was being a little shit. I can’t remember what I was doing, but it was something purposefully annoying — and in one moment, my beefy, 240-pound uncle hoisted me up by my belt with the raw power of his bulging bicep.
Because he grabbed it near my right hip, I fell sideways to the left, and the belt tightened like a sharp noose. A searing, zipper-like pain opened across my abdomen as I twisted and dangled in the air.
My uncle laughed while I screamed.
That was 33 years ago. Now my uncle is 74 and I’m 41. I’ve been married for 12 years and we have two young boys. In the time that’s passed, I can safely say I’ve sorted out all of the problems that troubled me in childhood.
I am patiently awaiting the day that my uncle is old and frail and I can watch him slowly descend into illness, into bed, cold and weak and with death knocking at his heart. At this moment, I will pick him up by his belt or diaper or whatever the fuck he’s wearing, and hold him up in the air while his joints crack and tears run down his face, and he stares at me with surprise until he croaks his last curse and dies.
And then I will watch him be lowered into the ground and buried under a pile of dirt, never to return. I count the days until his last.
Other than that, though, I live a pretty good, normal, cut-and-dry life. I make my kids breakfast every morning: pancakes, eggs, and orange juice. I don’t like giving them orange juice because it’s pretty much straight sugar, but it’s the only sweets they really get. My wife insists that they get spoiled. Whatever.
They play lots of sports, so I’m not worried they’ll get fat. My wife and I take turns driving them to soccer, badminton, and volleyball. I don’t mind driving. Kids say amusing things when they think adults can’t hear them.
I go to my buddy Lenny’s on Friday nights and drink beer in his “man-cave” (A.K.A. “unhygienic shithole”). My wife and I have date brunches at Tiffany’s Cafe on Saturdays. I get salmon, cream cheese, and grass on a bagel, and my wife gets eggs benedict. She doesn’t like when I call the sprouts “grass,” but that’s what they taste like. I give them to her. I would order the bagel without them, but she says that’s a waste. Happy wife, happy life. Whoever said that was a fucking realist. I get the bagel with grass.
I even go see my uncle from time to time. You know, the one that picked me up by the belt loop.
Or I call him, just to check in and ask how he’s doing. A small smile creeps across my lips whenever he says he’s not doing too good, or I walk into his house and see he’s fighting a rattling cold. Last year he got the flu, and phlegm shook his lungs for two weeks. I expected him to go bedridden, but he’s a tough old fucker, and my dream was deferred.
But I know it’s coming. I can see it in the way his skin has pulled away from his eye sockets. Everything about him is looser. My buddy Lenny likes to date younger girls, girls at least ten years younger than him. He says he does it for three reasons: he likes things “firm, firm, and tight.” He’s onto something. Looseness is the plague of age.
Lenny says he sometimes goes to yoga to pick up chicks. Everyone there is too firm, too tight, and they’re trying to loosen up. He goes to yoga and tells girls that he can help loosen them up. Somehow it works for him.
I stay at home, though. Looseness comes for all of us.
But tightness is coming for my uncle. Oh, it’s coming. That belt is going to crush the life out of him like a sponge being squeezed of water. It’s going to pour out of my uncle onto the floor, and when it does I’m going to throw down his crumpled form, carefully step out of the room, and close the door. The fire that hurts the back of my throat will finally disappear.
Nothing will hurt my heart anymore. When my uncle dies, I’ll be a new man.
And then I’ll drive home. On my way, I’ll stop at a flower shop, and buy a bouquet of roses. Then I’ll stop at a grocery store, and buy some dark chocolate and orange creamsicles.
I’ll give my wife the chocolate and flowers, and, while the creamsicles for my kids melt downstairs, she and I will dance in the sheets a little…
Nah. The wind’s going out of my sails just thinking about it. Me and my wife will fuck. I’ll fuck my wife, she’ll fuck me back, and we’ll smoke a cigarette with the bedroom window open. Then I’ll go downstairs and hug my kids. The wind can fall out of my sails then, and I’ll keep being a normal guy.