Foreign House: Four

THURSDAY

I pull the car into the service station. Kanu wakes up, pretending that he was never sleep. I turned off the hyperpop about an hour ago and switched on some football commentary.

Cindy is curled up and snoozing in the back seat like a little leopard. Her phone still in her hand. YouTube is still play. I can just hear that the auto-play algorithm has taken her to beauty video that sounds like it is borderline self-harm promotion. She wakes when the engine stops.

“First stop?”

“First stop.”

“How long have we been going?”

“Nearly three hours.”

“Wow that’s good. How was the hyperpop playlist?”

“Cultural.”

“Oh really. How, much further?”

“Maybe another four hours. The last hour and a half will be country roads. I don’t know if any of the services will be open.”

I pull down the notification shade on my phone and see a text from Lana asking, WTF? I leave it unread.

We limp across the carpark, stretching out our crooked bodies. My hand reaches for Cindy’s, automatically, but when our fingertips brush, I pull back slightly.

Cindy doesn’t say anything but she leaks a faint feeling of rejection into my mind. I nod at Kanu. She rolls her eyes. Our children become our parents. Cockblocked by an aquamarine, cartoon fox.

Blu-Tacked to the automatic, sliding door is a yellowing piece of paper with a ‘track and trace’ QR code on it. If anyone was still scanning those things, how could they do it while it’s moving with the door? Next to it is a sign incorrectly saying it is the law to wear a facemask inside. Age and sun have bleached this too and caused one of the corners to curl up. The sign flutters as the door moves, like a peeling scab.

As we enter, Kanu pulls a surgical mask out of his outfit and puts it on. I can only see three other people wearing masks. A couple who look like Asian tourists and a woman who looks about 80 years old. It was eerily automatic, but he doesn’t make a show of it or any say anything to us for being maskless. So I let it pass without comment.

“I need the toilet,” says Kanu.

“We’ll get the food. KFC family bucket?” Safe bet.

“I am a vegan now.” There are no safe bets.

>Be Him
>For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.

“Of course… what can you…”

“I’ll have the vegetarian burger thing, it’s close enough.”

“Coke?”

“Black coffee.”

When Kanu is out of earshot, Cindy whispers, “Can we hold hands now?” She touches my fingers with faux caution.

“Sorry about this,” I say, because don’t know what else to say and I already feel exhausted.

“Sorry for what? I’m having fun.”

“I’m just anxious.” Because that feels like a thing to say now. A reasonable excuse to be weak. “A few unexpected things have happened in succession.”

“You mean you have to admit to yourself I’m actually your girlfriend now?” Cindy takes my hand and pulls me toward to the KFC self-service, “I’ll get dinner.”

>Be me
>41yo man child
>Still trying to keep it casual with gf

“What the fuck is he wearing though?” I say absently while watching Cindy scroll through page after page of chicken, trying to find the vegetarian options.

“Who?”

“Kanu, why is he dressed as blue cartoon fox?”

“He’s into furry culture.”

I raise an eyebrow, “Is he?”

“Yes, he told me when you were speaking to Lana.”

“How do you know about furry culture?”

“Some regulars at the club starting talking about it. I looked it up. We started a ‘meme night’ on a Tuesday where we dress as sexy versions of different internet characters. Tuesday used to be dead. Now it’s sometimes our busiest night. Especially after the student loans are deposited.”

“Who the fuck comes to that?”

“It’s mostly neckbeards and students who have never seen a naked woman in real life but have watched to much pixelated Japanese porn or hentai.”

I shake my head, “I don’t get it. He seems to be hiding in this niche, internet world. He seems so effeminate. Maya is more…”

“Maya is a different person. Were you a perfect specimen of a man at his age.” I grunt. “Are you even now?”

I lift my arm and flex my bicep exaggeratedly, “Yes. I swing an 18kg kettle bell. I eat multi-vits almost every day. I meditate. I’ve read Sex At Dawn. I subscribe to all the correct manosphere podcasts. Maybe I should put one on for the next leg of the journey.”

“Or maybe you should talk to him.”

“I guess we do have another four hours to kill.”

“No, not in the car. Not in front of me. Find some time alone at the weekend.”

That was obvious. Why am I so bad at this. Maya talks to me about anything. About too much in fact. She asks for advice about boys she is dating. Or talking to. Or whatever it is. It haunts me.

“Do you think the internet is castrating young men? Psychically I mean?” I ask, in the most cack-handed of subject changes.

“That conversation? Now? Really?” Cindy, points with her eyebrows. Kanu is walking toward us. A KFC drone shouts our order number. Cindy grabs the bag. We look for a table. None of them are clean. All of them are strewn with a wilted French-fry, puddle of diet coke or bruised piece of lettuce. We give one of them a performative wipe, sit down and split the food. Kanu removes his mask, draws a key-ring-hand-sanitiser-bottle out of another hidden pocket in his fur and cleans his hands in what I swear is a feline manner.

The two of them seem fine with the silence, but it is unbearable to me. “How’s the veggie-burger?” I ask.

“Nice.”

“You don’t mind us eating chicken in front of you?” He shakes his head.

Cindy is gorging on her half of the ‘family’ bucket. I wonder it if it called that because it is for families to eat or because it contains a family of chicken. Kanu is pecking and picking at his food. Don’t they feel the invisible precipice of silence in front of us?

“How’s the chicken?”

“Nice,” says Cindy.

“Nice.” Are we having a good time? Is this family life in the current year?

*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s