Hazy Days and Cloudy NightsHow It All Got Started 005: Carson
Monday, June 18, 1984
Car looked at his mother and father in turn. His mother’s face was tight with irritation. His father’s grin had been freeze-dried by the ultimatum.
Heat rose in Carson’s cheeks. “Friday? You’re cutting my time with Tess from three months to three days?
His father shrugged. “Look, I’m not telling you to break up with her before you leave. Of course that’s up to you.”
Car jabbed an index finger, raw and stained from bass practice, at his father. “But you are telling me I’ve got less time with my girlfriend just because you decided I have to go with you.”
His mother’s voice was cold. “This trip is meant to be a gift to you, Carson. Show some gratitude.”
Car jerked to his feet. “Gratitude? Are you—”
Frustration nearly overwhelmed him. He retreated to his room with quick, stiff steps. His limbs felt like they were made of steel rods.
His father pushed open his bedroom door with a slap of his hand.
Car backed away from the door to let in his father. Ted Meunetti stepped inside and closed the door behind him while Car to stand at the foot of his bed. He crossed his arms on his chest and glared at the floor.
“Carson.” His dad placed slight emphasis on the first syllable.
“This isn’t how we thought you’d take this. I’m confused.”
“Yeah?” Car kept his gaze on the carpet and willed himself to shut down the tears that threatened. He would not cry like a fucking kid. He would not.
“Yeah. If I’d had an opportunity like this when I was your age, I’d be packing my bags right now. Counting down the hours.”
That was it. That was motherfucking it, right there. Car’s jaw clenched. He pushed his tongue against the back of his teeth until mouth opened. He took a deep breath. Then, he could speak.
“You are not me, Dad.”
“Of course not. But I—your mother and I both— we’re trying to give you every possible opportunity, every leg up we can, so you have everything you need to succeed. This trip is part of that!”
His father spread his arms. “Just the people you could meet—my God, Car, these are the type of people you could work for after college. Think of that.”
Car snorted. “Beach babes?”
His father pursed his lips and tilted his head. “You know it doesn’t have to all be that—you’ll want to meet some people, folks who can help you later on. It’s called networking, Carson.”
“Help me with what? My career? I’ve been out of high school for, what, seventy two hours, and you’re writing my resume for me?”
The words pushed out from his heart, flowed up his throat and filled his mouth. He let them out.
“I don’t want help with everything, dad. I don’t want it all planned out. I don’t want the push. I don’t want…”
He turned away; bit his lip.
He felt his father behind him, silent for a half a minute. Car focused on the dust on the corners of the blinds hanging from his bedroom window.
Finally, his father softly said, “What don’t you want, Car?”
Car closed his eyes briefly. He let out a long breath, turned back to his dad, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Look.” His father sat down on the bed next to him. “I—I am grateful. I know you guys have expectations. I mean, I want to go to school, I want to study law…” He looked at his hands; felt the hard-earned ache in his fingers from practicing the bass all day.
“Right…” His father prompted gently.
“I’m gonna do all that,” Car said. “It’s a given. I’m going to do everything you guys expect of me.”
Which meant going to his parents’ school, following his parents’ career path… none of which was entirely against his will. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to change the world, and he believed he would.
“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” his father said.
Carson smiled slightly. “Yeah. ‘But’ you guys make me feel like… I dunno… like you have everything mapped out so well, there’s nothing left for me to find on my own.”
Saying it all brought Car great release and great dread.
His father nodded. “Huh.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “You’re so damn smart, kiddo. You’re like an arrow, and the bow’s been pulled back as far as it can go.”
Car frowned. “No pressure, dad. Thanks.”
His father grunted; a short laugh; a small concession. “Okay. I think your mother and I worry about that arrow hitting its target once it’s in the air.”
“Does it matter where it lands?” Carson shook his head. Carrying the metaphor felt silly and forced, but sometimes his father couldn’t help but talk like this, so Car played along. “I’m gonna make a mark, no matter what.”
He was. Fuckin’ aye, he was. Car had no doubt about this.
His father put a hand on his shoulder. “I know it,” he said. “So… why not Costa Rica? It’s two weeks, Car. You’ll remember those two weeks the rest of you life. You will.”
“It’s not Costa Rica, dad.”
His father met his eyes. Nodded. “It’s you not having a choice,” he said. “Right?”
“Kinda. I feel like a slot car.” Great. Now he was doing it. He was his father’s son, lucky him. He smiled at himself.
His father smiled, too. “Nice one.”
“I just want this summer to just… be. Y’know?”
“Yeah.” His father clapped his hand against the back of Car’s head and mussed his hair a little. He stood up.
Car looked up at his dad. “Okay?”
Disappointment was still there, but his father shrugged and smiled again. “Yep. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
Car looked at the door. “What about…”
“I’ll talk to your mother.”
Carson nodded, a little dazed. “Thanks, dad.”
His father sighed. He opened the door. “Have your summer.” He left the room and closed the door behind him.
Car made fists despite the pain in his fingers. He raised them above his head and let out a restrained, “Yes!”
He rolled across his bed to the telephone on his nightstand and dialed Tess.
“Hello?” She had a high voice that matched her diminutive frame. It made him smile.
Car turned on his back and stretched. He felt tremendous. Free. “Let’s do something tonight.”
“Aw…” Regret in her tone brought Car down a notch. “I can’t, tonight. But… I’m glad you called, Car.”
“Well, that’s good! I’m glad you answered.” He laughed.
“Yeah,” she said. “Do you have some time? We need to talk.”
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