“So you’re telling me you’re angry at your wife because she bought you a pair of work pants,” said Tali.
“That’s right,” said Bruno.
“No, that’s wrong.”
“They’re not the right kind,” whined Bruno.
“I don’t want them.”
“Who cares?” said Tali.
“No you don’t.”
“Fuck you. You can’t tell me I don’t care,” said Bruno.
“Sorry. You’re right. You do care. You care what the fuckin hammer heads on the job site might think of you if you aren’t wearin Carharts. Instead of caring that your wife loves you. And wants to buy shit for you.”
Tali put on his hard hat and got up to take a leak then turned back to say,
“Bro, didn’t your dad teach you that whenever you can say yes to your wife just say yes.”
“That makes no sense. And my dad never taught me anything about women,” said Bruno, screwing the cup back on the red thermos his wife bought him.
“I. Don’t. Know,” said Bruno.
“I do,” said Vanessa.
“It’s not never. It’s just not now,” said Bruno.
“I’m not waiting till I’m forty to have children.”
“Who’s saying you have to wait till you are freakin forty.”
“You’re a fuckin broken record,” said Vanessa.
“I need to feel more stable in my work.”
“Then stop getting fired,” said Vanessa as she turned and walked to the cramped kitchen.
“Let go is the proper term. And it isn’t my fault.”
I don’t care if it’s your fault or your boss is an asshole. Deal with it. Your buddy Tim does. And Manuel does. Why can’t you?”
“I don’t work with them anymore.”
“My point exactly,” said Vanessa.
“Why can’t you stop hounding me?” Bruno’s posture slid from tired to defeated.
“Hounding you?! I’m …,” said Vanessa, shocked that Bruno couldn’t see what she wanted.
“Ya. Where are the children?” said Bruno in a falsetto voice imitating Vanessa. “Don’t get fired,” he continued, karate chopping his right hand into his left palm. “Tim is better than you.” Another karate chop. “Just say nothing to your stupid supervisor when he wants to cut corners all over the place,” said Bruno out of breath.
“You seriously think I am criticising you?” said Vanessa.
“All I can hear is how I am not good enough for you,” said Bruno glaring into Vanessa’s back. Vanessa spins around,
“I am supporting the man I think you are!”
Bruno grabbed his coat and his phone and slammed the door.
‘I am not going to chase that loser’ thought Vanessa. As she banged utensils around the kitchen Vanessa heard the pitter patter of little feet from the ceiling above her.
Bruno and Vanessa were living in the house where he grew up. They occupied the basement apartment and rented out the bungalow above them.
“And if that baby isn’t crying all night, it’s running around all day – pumpum pumpum,” said Bruno about the same little footsteps that make Vanessa edgy. But for a different reason.
“It’s like the only thing Vanessa and I agree on these days,” he said.
“You know I know the total layout of the upstairs so in my mind when they are walking around I picture it. I can’t turn it off. I can’t focus on anything because as soon as they move it’s like I become their tour guide or something. But only in my mind.”
“Take it easy bro,” said Massimo Bruno’s older brother.
“That’s the point, I wish …. I take the wrong things easy and make easy things difficult or whatever. Anyway that’s what Vanessa says.”
“Ok. Breathe Bruno. If I had a beer I would offer you one but I don’t keep any in the house anymore,” said Massimo.
Massimo shoves his hands in his jacket pockets and leans against the frame of the open garage door of his home literally 4 blocks from Bruno’s place. Bruno had walked here in a huff on a crisp November evening. He loved the clean fresh air but tonight he was too busy running his revenge movie in his head of the stupid things he would do and say.
Instead of selling their parents house they had all agreed that Bruno and Vanessa would live there and pay his parents rent for the whole house while collecting rent themselves from the tenants upstairs. Bruno would attend to the tenant’s needs or complaints with the enthusiasm and customer service of a teenage tree sloth. Bruno and Vanessa lived there almost rent free because the rent from upstairs covered the mortgage payment. They just had to pay utilities. Still the mortgage was in Vito’s name, Bruno’s dad. The plan that Vito and Massimo put together was for Bruno to buy the house in 2 years from the date of moving into the basement. Three years later Bruno was still flailing professionally and financially.
Vanessa didn’t bring much to the table. She had learned from her vitriolic parents that, upon their immature version of divorce, she was a commodity that had value even if she did nothing but breathe. Up to this point she had found sufficient success with this model so that it didn’t occur to her to have initiative. So for her it didn’t make sense to her to invest in a career if they were going to start a family and then move upstairs.
“Bro, take her some flowers, kiss her like you love her, go for a tumble in the sack.”
“Ya, you’re right,” said Bruno.
Bruno let himself get drawn quickly into an abyss of fear you could see in how his eyes went distant in an instant. The flowers were a great idea, Bruno thought, but having sex would only reinforce his place as the one guy who can’t get it done. Massimo had seen this look many a time before;
“And find some fuckin sunshine in your day. If there aint no sunshine in the vicinity – fuckin make your own. Dude. It’s life. You’re young,” said Massimo punching Bruno in the shoulder.
“You have a woman who loves you, bro. Make any mistake you want but don’t make that mistake – of not loving her. And being loved by her. I will slap you so hard if …”
“Ok, I get it,” said Bruno.
“We’ll see if that is true, Romeo.”
Massimo was tired of Bruno’s broken record of woe is me.
“I really appreciate … I know I just dropped by and you’re probably about to have dinner and,” Bruno went on.
“Dude,” said Massimo. “This is getting old. It’s so old it’s stale. Ya know. Not stepping up to the plate and then complaining you’re not on base. Bro …”
“Bro, I came here for a little commiseration,” said Bruno.
“What does commiseration mean?”
“It means, like to be, on the same page.”
“No it doesn’t.”
“Drink wine from the same bottle?” tried Bruno.
Massimo didn’t want to be the perfect older brother but he couldn’t help shaking his head. In a flash he had visions of their dad and childhood; and the stupid teeenage things they did together amazingly all fitting into a few seconds in his mind.
“Ok, so then what does it mean?”
“Bruno. There is no perfect time to have children. Bro. Make your wife happy. Make us all happy. Fuck – make yourself happy. It doesn’t fuckin matter what you do! Just get her pregnant as you do it. That will answer 90% of your imaginary problems.”
“Ok it’s time for ….”
“You don’t have any issues?”
Can you get it up?”
“Yes, I can get IT up.”
“Then are you shootin blanks?”
“Fuck if I know.”
“Well, If your Vanessa isn’t pregnant in the next 6 months you gotta get your junk analysed.
In the cool silence of the dusk the honest cold of the night lovingly takes over. In that bare moment teasing intimate conversations Lisa, Massimo’s wife opened the door at the back of the garage.
“Hi Bruno, good to see you.”
“Hey Lisa, you too,” said Bruno.
“Are you gonna stay for dinner? I am reheating Massimo’s for him now,” said Lisa looking at her husband.
“Thanks Lisa, I gotta get goin,” said Bruno.
“Thanks Babe. I’ll be in in a minute,” said Massimo before Lisa could close the door.
”You see what it is? It’s the whole package. It’s a marriage. It’s a family. It’s a circus. Everyday there is a ton of bullshit if you are gonna count the cost. Bro – the point is to make important things important. If Vanessa is important to you, make her happy, give her a baby.”
From the Collection of Short Stories: Tool by Kevin McNamara