Still Safe

The sunlight fell through the column of concrete pylons and landed neatly on the speckled linoleum floor. Inside it was an orderly chaos. People were constantly being herded into lines, or barred from accessing certain areas. Everyone hurried through the lobby, walking faster than they jog, their luggage in tow, all of them confused and worried. It seemed that whenever someone was in an airport, they were late. Everyone, except Andy. Andy, who now believed that this was some kind of punishment. Andy, who – since he’d been arrested at the end of May – believed that every favor, his mom asked of him, was some kind of punishment. Andy, who had been waiting inside the airport for nearly three hours.

He knew that even though they would probably be late, but he still left his house an hour and a half before the plane was due to land. Now, three hours later, he had began to curse everyone in the airport. Flights never even leave on time so it shouldn’t have even crossed his mind that they would be early.

“Fuck it. They’ll call me, or mom, or someone when they get here.”

And when he left, he had to pay a higher parking fee – he paid to park for one hour, not three. And he drove too fast on the way home, and played his music too loud, and missed his exit. It took him an extra hour to get home. But part of him was satisfied; at least he would have plenty to complain about when he talked to his mom tonight. All she had to say in reply was:

“You weren’t supposed to pick them up until tomorrow. Are you going out tonight? No drinking, be home by twelve.”

So the next day – after Andy did drink, and wasn’t home until after twelve – he left half an hour late, (planes are never on time anyways), ignored three calls from his uncle, and instead, just drove faster.

Inside, Andy wandered through the terminal, confused and worried until he stumbled upon his relatives – or more aptly – until his relatives stumbled upon him. Andy heard his name called, and turned around to see his uncle running up to him, then he tried not to look surprised.

“Andy! I saw you walk by almost three times, what took you so long? Didn’t you get my calls?

“Oh! Hey Uncle Norm! I thought you guys weren’t supposed to get in until just now – I left my phone at home accidently.”

“Well, we caught an earlier flight. I tried calling you when we got our bags – how could you forget your phone?”

“Well, I hope you guys haven’t been waiting too long. Where is everyone else?”

“Sherry and the kids went to find a bathroom."

From behind his uncle, Andy saw five strangers approaching him. His aunt was dragging, his screaming, kicking, twin cousins by the wrists. Past the temper tantrums, after a generous buffer zone, two teenage girls were tapping away at their cell phones. Then the twins, upon seeing their older, cool-guy cousin, reanimated, ran full speed over to Andy, and threw themselves into his legs. Eventually their mother caught up, out of breath.

“Hey Andy! I’m sorry, the boys have just been so excited to see you! I hope they won’t cause too much trouble while we’re gone.”

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

“Great! Well how have you been sweetie? Have you been staying out of trouble?”

Andy realized he didn’t have the slightest clue if she, or any of his other relatives, knew about his court date, or about how Andy spent a night in hand cuffs earlier in the summer.

“Oh I’ve been trying to.” As he said this, he saw Natalie smirk, almost laugh, as she continued tapping away at her tiny little phone. No doubt his little sister had been talking to her.

“Good, good! Well Andy this is Therese, she’s one of Natalie’s friends from back home, Nicole this is Andy.”

“Oh, hi!” she said in between laughs. She must not have been used to shaking hands back in New Mexico.

“It’s nice to meet you Therese. Hey Natalie!"

“Hiii, it’s nice to see you again” The two cousins hugged briefly.

On the way home Andy had to dish out all his expected small talk, telling his aunt and uncle about his school, and what he was studying, and his sisters’ schools, and what they were studying, and the family, and what everyone had been up to, which was mostly going to school and studying. Andy liked the boring questions though. Boring questions have boring answers; they don’t leave any room for surprises. And after the parents were done talking with him, the teenagers made small talk about music and school – more boring questions with more boring answers. Still safe. But Andy couldn’t help but notice a hint of irony in Natalie’s voice, when she asked him,

“Haven’t you gotten into something exciting this summer?”

“Oh nothing, just a class one misdemeanor, that’s all.” That’s what he wanted to say. But of course, he didn’t.

And for the rest of the ride home, Andy found himself reaching for his stereo, knowing he didn’t have any music he would feel comfortable playing in front of everybody. He just wanted something to drown out the deafening silence that was filling the car.

At dinner, Andy was sitting opposite of his mom. He usually sat at the far end of the table, out of anyone’s direct line of sight, but tonight he had to make room for his extended family. So he spent the whole dinner poking at his salmon, trying not to look his mom in the eye – something he hadn’t done since late may. The small talk continued through half the dinner, interrupted only a few times Jack and Anthony who were constantly kicking each other (and Andy several times) under the table. Andy knew that eventually his dad would start a conversation that would break off into several tangents, and this would be Andy’s cue that he could leave the table. This family is so predictable. But then, halfway through the third bottle of wine, Norm asked Andy’s Mom about her job, causing Andy to choke on his soda.

“Are you okay sweetie?” Auntie Sherry cocked her head and nudged her neck forward.

“Oh I’m fine, it just went down the wrong pipe, that’s all.” Said Andy as he quickly finished the rest of his drink. Leaving just enough time for his sister to comment.


“Lauren. Stop it.” Andy’s mom shot her a look that made all the adults put down their silverware and reach for their glass. All the adults except for Andy’s father, who was trying to catch the score of the game that was on mute in the living room.

“Norm, I think that that is a conversation that we should have when you and Sherry get back from your trip.”

“Is there something wrong Tessie?”

“Norm, please.”

Uncle Norm let out a slight grunt, and concentrated again on his food, occasionally passing looks at Andy, who was now the center of attention. Luckily, there was a commercial break, and just as Andy predicted, his father launched Uncle Norm into a conversation about the price of gold, and how it was directly related to the current economic crisis. Andy left the table, as did the rest of the kids, and headed downstairs to the basement.

The next day, Andy’s mom took Uncle Norm and Auntie Sherry to the airport on her way to the Temp Agency. Uncle Norm and Auntie Sherry had business convention in New York. Andy and his sister were supposed to take their cousins into D.C. but both their parents were working today, and Lauren had decided that she didn’t want to spend all day ‘walking around D.C. with nothing to do’. Andy agreed, and by 2’clock there were fifteen or so of Lauren’s friends in the backyard. It was close to 100 degrees, but only a handful of people were in the pool, most everybody was by sitting around the cooler or ash tray in the shaded patio area.

“You guys smoke?” Andy looked over the top of his sunglasses at Natalie and Therese.

“Uh, yeaah… you don’t?”

“I don’t smoke cigarettes, if that’s what you mean.” Andy, was reaching into his pocket.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Natalie’s face squinched up as the sun poked a way through the leaves and caught Natalie on the bridge of her nos.,

“Weed? Do you smoke weed?” Andy tossed a pack of Zig Zags on the table and reached for his other pocket.

“Oh! Right, I mean sometimes. Talk to Therese.” She said, looking up from under her hand. “What was all that at dinner last night?”

“What was all what at dinner last night.” Said Andy.

“Come on, Lauren said you had an interesting story to tell, obviously something’s up.”

Andy could see that Therese had been aroused, and listening in on the conversation. Her lime green bikini top, made a sassy statement against her dark olive skin, but it didn’t catch Andy’s eye as much as her eyes did. Her iris was tiny ocean, splashed with thunder clouds. Andy fixed his attention back to his project on the table,

“It’s a long story, but basically I got my mom fired when I got arrested. Well not just me, I mean it wasn’t all my fault. But yeah, it’s pretty shitty.”

“What? How!”

“Well, you know how my mom’s a real estate agent right? Well when I got home from school, Lauren told me she found the keys to some of the houses my mom is selling, so I told her we should throw a party there. And so a couple of weeks ago we got a bunch of people together, and like things got really out of hand, really fast. And I guess the neighbors called the cops, cuz like, the next thing I know, two cop cars roll up to the driveway, and everybody, including Lauren, is running out the backyard, and then someone let the cops in, and basically I got taken in to the cop shop, where they charged me with trespassing, and underage possession of alcohol and threw me in the drunk tank. So then it’s like 8 o’ clock Sunday morning, and I’m calling my dad to come pick up my from the police station. BUT, then the cops contacted my mom’s real estate office, and they ended up firing her. So now I’m basically just waiting for my trial. It really sucks.”

“Oh my God.”

Still Safe


Vienna, United States

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