The dinner table. Every night, it almost feels like an extended family reunion. Dad lays out the cutlery. “So, who’s saying grace?”
“I’ll do it,” Sandra offers.
“No.” Mum interjects a little too quickly, widened eyes. Pause. She reassumes her posture, looks down. “I’ll do it.”
Dad looks down quietly. Sandra stares at her mother with a laser gaze.
“Our Father, thank you for keeping us together as one family, covered by Your blood. Let Your righteous love be in this household. Bless the food, and our time together. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
The sounds of cutlery against porcelain. It is silent for a long while; no one looks up, forcefully absorbed in the way a meatball always evades you just as you think you’ve got it, and pounces into a cushion of pasta for refuge.
“Honey, could you pass the salt, please?” “Sandra, could you pass your mum the salt?” Sandra slides it across the table. “I said you.” Mum doesn’t touch it. “But she was closer to the salt.” “What, now even the things I touch contaminate you?”
Mum resumes silence. Dad seems to be intrigued by the food.
“Mum, I’m still a Christian, you know, you can still talk to me.”
Continues chewing. “There’s no point talking if you’re not going to listen.” “Well, at least you can tell me what’s going on?”
“Don’t call yourself a Christian. Don’t call yourself a follower if you’re not following Him.”
“But I love God! And I’m trying! I’m trying to be the best person I can be!” “No you’re not!” Fork clumsily scratches against porcelain. “You’re not trying.”
“Sandra,” Dad begins in a firm voice, “you know that no matter what, we still love you, and we’re there for you no matter what-“ “Oh, stop patronizing her,” Mum interjects.
“Mum, what if you just tried listening to my point of view, stop freaking out, I’m still the same daughter, nothing needs to change-”
“YOU’RE NOT TRYING!” Silence. She takes a deep breath. “You’re still the same daughter? How much have you been keeping from me? Was I wrong when I thought I knew you? How much about my family don’t I know? Why does it always have to wait until it explodes like a bomb?” “Mum, stop it. There is no bomb.” Pause. “Nothing has changed, I’m still the same daughter you know, and I still love God, and I’m going to still be your daughter.”
Silence. You can tell Mum is unconvinced. “Why couldn’t God just give me fine, normal, God-fearing children, why is the devil taking away the family,” she mutters. Sandra flinches at ‘normal’. “Mum, stop it. What are you talking about. I’m still here.” “YOU MIGHT AS WELL NOT BE.”
“Mum I don’t get why you’re so worked up. It's just one aspect of my identity. I just love someone different, there are so many other things that make me who I am – for one I’m a Christian-“
“Don’t taint that word with your filth.”
All the years of Mum’s passing of judgments at passers-by, of divine threats, of ridiculously intolerant stances, are gathered in Sandra’s eyes and hurled back at her with a single, hard stare. Then she gets up. Grabs her slingbag. Leaves the house. The reddish-brown door swings close with a force.
“Now what, dear? Our daughter has just left the house! Are you chasing the whole family out one by one? What do we have left?” Dad bursts into aggressive tones.
“It’s not my fault they are what they are!” “It’s probably just a phase, you know girls have these experimental phases at that age, and the girls' school she’s in, you gotta give her some time!” Mum flinches. Sighs. Her elbow rests on the dining table and she runs her fingers through her hair.
“Now what?” Dad continues. “We have no children left?” “What, it’s my fault?” “Have you thought that maybe, if you weren’t so ugly in your religion, none of this would have happened?” “Well God isn’t some nice softie, he’s got some rules to follow!” “But our command isn’t to judge! It’s to love! And look at what you’ve done!”
Mum puts her palms to her forehead, she is worn out. She sits deflated, defeated, a tired stray dog at the end of the day.
“She said she’s still out daughter, right? She’s coming back?” “Yes.” “And she’s still a Christian?” “Yes.” “Okay.” She breathes. “Okay. Then we haven’t lost her.”
Seven blocks away, Sandra hides in a different bed, her face wet with tears. A hand is stroking her hair. A kiss on her forehead. She knows she is not alone. She is writing a letter. “Dear Tim,” it reads, in shaky handwriting. “I used to blame you, I used to think you were a terrible person, but now I understand. It’s hard to keep your faith in a household like that. Mum has only become more edgy. But I don’t blame you. How’re you holding up? Maybe we could meet sometime?”
i don't know if you get it, my class didn't get it, but the girl just came out of the closet about her sexual identity, and her brother became an atheist and left the house. Comments welcome! Should I try making it more explicit?