Uncle Zed

Sidestepping the piles of clothes, homework sheets with a red "F" marching across the top, and various other teenaged objects, I slung my backpack off my shoulder and hoisted it onto my bed. Fingers tentatively grasping the zipper, I calculated how many hours I had before school started again in the morning. If I devoted an hour or two to my homework, I could watch several episodes of How I Met Your Mother, before spending a few hours in dreamless sleep and waking up to start the whole cycle over again.

I pulled my t-shirt over my head, got lazy, and just sat there with my head poking halfway through the t-shirt and my arms dangling listlessly from the armholes. Everything required so much effort, lately, which was (perhaps) in part because I no longer deemed Prozac necessary to treat my "depression." As if. Slapping the diagnosis on me and writing me prescriptions for the pills, well, they were just more ways of letting my aunt believe she was doing everything possible for me. In reality, though, what I needed was for her to stop dragging my shiny-shoed feet to church every Sunday. All I'd ever done in that frescoed building was stare at the stained glass windows and wonder if my mom really was up in Heaven, sipping celestial wine and singing praises to the one who'd let her kick the bucket, in the first place. Jesus sure had a strange way of rewarding Christians.

I thrust the rest of the shirt off my body and wiggled into a dingy camisole that would relieve me of some of the unbearable heat in my room. Allowing a long, self-pitying sigh to flee my lungs, I crawled onto my bed and arranged myself a nice little nest amongst the pillows. My backpack tipped over and vomited its contents over the side of the bed, so I shoved the whole thing off and stretched my legs out where it once had been. I plugged my beloved laptop to its source of power and leaned close, blowing the particles of dust off my screen.

My fingers began the sacred ritual of flicking the power switch of my laptop and typing the password to log on. I had entered the password so many times that now, my fingers had memorized the motions necessary to type without paying attention to the actual letters they were pressing. Chirping cheerfully at my arrival, the laptop welcomed me and faded into the desktop background of my best friend and me standing at the Bean in Chicago, making those stupid duck faces we'd once thought were cool.

Somewhere downstairs, I heard Aunt Cecelia exclaim her happiness over my uncle entering the house, signifying the end of his work day and the beginning of my aunt and uncle's hushed, worried whispers. No matter. I had grown accustomed to the hum of their muffled tones. They didn't think I knew they were discussing the poor life choices of the daughter of my poor uncle's brutally manslaughtered sister, but they were wrong. I wondered how my uncle would respond to my appearance.

Uncle Zed, who, in an act of charity upon everyone who ever hoped to address him, had decided not to call himself by his birth name - "Zedekiah" - possessed a head that was much cooler than that of my aunt. While my antics sent my God-fearing aunt into what she called "conniptions," Uncle Zed typically had the presence of mind to sit down with me and ask me about what was going on in my life. It was a bit difficult to talk to him sometimes, not because he made it thus, but because he actually had earned just the tiniest smidgen of respect from me. For some odd reason, the smallest section of my heart, the one that hadn't been completely destroyed by my mother's death, desired for my uncle to like me, even just a little bit, because that's the natural response when you respect someone. You want them to see you as more than just another face in the clamoring crowds of humanity.

In fact, sometimes, the need to be liked by the only father figure in my life was what kept me from doing some pretty stupid things. The worried, wearied look on my uncle's face when I had spent a morning with my face in the toilet, puking up the party from the night before, had inspired me to learn how to party without suffering for it later. And it was my uncle's concerns that had opened my naive eyes to how irresponsible my first boyfriend was. Uncle Zed's concerns alone weren't what made my boyfriend and me break up, but they were what got me thinking about it, in the first place.

I typed netflix.com and tangibly felt the tension leave me. I imagined it slipping off the bed and slinking out through the room, before emitting a mirthless chuckle over how psychotic I was being. Shoving the earphones into my brain, I relaxed my mind and let myself be overtaken by the promise of an episode's worth of peace and quiet.

The End

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