The Road to Nowhere
I awake with a start followed by an immediate pang of disappointment to find that we are taking the same old route to the same old place. Most of all, I am dismayed to find that the car hasn’t crashed, because honestly, I’d have more fun in Accident and Emergency than the pain of visiting my grandparents. ‘Holiday’ is defined as “a time of leisure and recreation, especially when spent away from home or in travelling.” Think of the things associated with the words ‘leisure’ and ‘recreation’ and they are invariably positive. One usually thinks of pleasant times in mid-July on a beach enjoying a cool flavoursome ice cream and not graffiti-covered concrete hot like a storage heater. The first thought is vastly more appealing. However, the second was my parents’ idea of a favourite annual holiday. For them, there was the allure of a long trip, car packed to the gills, to a bleak town where the most exciting thing was the chemical factory. “Isn’t it lovely seeing family?” my mother says, in denial. She always refers to the town as a nostalgic haven. I believe she mistakes her nostalgia for trauma. There is nothing the delusional woman loves more than visiting her elderly and possibly demented parents. How can she describe the town as a sunny, bright and animated? It is close to decrepit. What was a park for young children to play in has become an area for teenagers to loiter in. Innocent children are at risk of having their pocket money stolen, or their footballs punctured. With so few outlets around, kids may as well put up with the bullying. For one week in September, however, one has the ‘pleasure’ of the local ‘carnival’ which consists of dodgy bumper cars and the hook-a-duck stall run by a dour man, always smoking with beer in hand. The prize for a winning throw can be a torch without batteries or mongrel-chewed stuffed toy. I loathe the town’s ugliness. This is nothing compared to my loathing of the three weeks endured inside the crowded, top-floor apartment of a grotty complex. Naturally, there’s no lift, so every year we lug our bags up countless flights of stairs to be greeted by the grating sound of grandmother’s welcome. Grandmother hovers around us like a fly over sugary cake. Even at night, when I slump into bed, sighing with relief at the prospect of eight hours of privacy, she opens the door with a cheery ‘goodnight’. God, how I loathe it! My grandfather hardly speaks. He sits on the couch, longing for peace. Occasionally he mumbles ‘pass the remote’ or a surprising, ‘How are you?” I tried once to talk with him… “Are you awake?” Mother interrupts my train of thought. I want to say ‘unfortunately’ what comes out instead is ‘I love these holidays. They’re my absolute favourite. ’
As I gaze out the window, we are almost there.