Macbeth

I wrote a scene for English, and I rather like it, so I thought I’d post it here. The assignment was: if Banquo’s ghost could speak, what would he and Macbeth say to each other? I didn’t bother trying to mimic Shakespeare’s style or vocabulary, and it’s not a script. If you know the story of Macbeth, skip down to the break 😛 As with anything I write, feedback of any kind is greatly appreciated.

The story of Macbeth

Macbeth is a thane (lord) of Scotland who has just won a great battle for his king, Duncan. He and his friend Banquo are out walking when they encounter three witches, who prophecy that Macbeth shall be Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, and that Banquo’s children shall be kings as well. Message delivered, they vanish. Macbeth, much perturbed, and Banquo, who doesn’t seem to really buy it, almost immediately meet a messenger of the king who says that Macbeth is now Thane of Cawdor.

Macbeth gets all excited and sends a letter to his wife, who turns out to be a really bloodthirsty lady. The king is so pleased with Macbeth that he decides to go visit him; Macbeth rides ahead and meets his wife, who pushes him into doing what he was already sort of planning: kill the king.

In one very dark and terrible scene, they do. It happens offstage; all we see is their reactions to it. Lady Macbeth shows her first signs of actual humanity as she tries to keep a hold of herself; Macbeth just loses it. He’s all tormented and such, and no amount of cajoling or scorn from his wife can shake him out of it.

The next morning, one of the king’s lords comes to Macbeth’s place to see the king and discovers him dead. Everyone is very surprised, none more than Macbeth and his lady. Macbeth goes into the king’s chambers and, in a fit of rage, conveniently murders the two drunken servants he and his lady framed. No one really objects, considering they killed the king. The king’s two sons run off to England and Ireland, respectively, and everyone assumes they must have put the killers up to it.

This whole time, Macbeth has been dropping little hints to Banquo that he’d really like to talk to him. Whenever you have a moment, any time, seriously, whenever you can, at your first convenience… But Banquo keeps putting it off. Perhaps this is why Macbeth decides that Banquo must go. Perhaps it is because he is enraged at the prospect of Banquo’s descendents profiting from his sacrifice (and he has sacrificed for this: killing the king tipped him over the edge, and he’s slowly going crazy). Perhaps he is afraid that Banquo will somehow expose his murder of the king. Regardless, he hires some thugs to kill Banquo and his son, Fleance, while they’re out riding.

Banquo dies; Fleance escapes. The thugs inform Macbeth of this, and not two minutes later, in walks Banquo’s ghost. Only Macbeth can see him, and he has a screaming fit right in front of all the highest lords of Scotland.

That’s where this scene would take place: it would replace his screaming fit, having the ghost show up when Macbeth is alone; or perhaps it would simply come later, after the lords have dispersed.

The scene

“How did you get here?!”

The ghost raised his eyebrows. “Oh, I think you know that.”

Macbeth backed away. “You’re dead.”

“What an astute observation, old friend.”

“What do you want?” Macbeth whispered.

Banquo’s ghost laughed silently, baring his teeth. “What did you expect? No man gets to live without regrets, Macbeth. They always come back to haunt you.”

“Get out,” Macbeth ordered, his voice ragged. “You’re not real. Leave me!”

The ghost sat down, crossing his legs lazily. “You know,” he said pensively, “I can’t believe you really did it. It amazes me, it really does. I wondered, I have to admit, when Duncan died, especially when you so conveniently flew into a fit of rage and killed his murderers. But then Malcolm and Donalbain fled the country, and it seemed obvious who the real killers must have been. I told myself I was being silly.”

Banquo reached a hand up to his bloodstained hair. He leveled his gaze at Macbeth, and his eyes were murderous. “I guess I should have paid more attention to my instincts.”

Macbeth shook his head. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the faintly glowing specter. “You would have betrayed me. You would have—”

“Who are you to speak of betrayal?” Banquo roared. Macbeth jumped back as if struck. “You, who killed your king, who murdered your closest friend?”

“You would have betrayed me! You, you want nothing more than to see me dead and your children on the throne – my throne!”

“Your throne?” The ghost spat. It landed with a feeble splat on the stone flagstones and vanished. “That for your throne.”

“No,” Macbeth stammered. “No, I’ve won. I’ve defeated you,” he cried. “I am king! King!” He leaned forward, as if he wanted to come closer but did not dare. “I am king,” he hissed. “And there is nothing you can do about it.”

Banquo snorted. “Oh yes, congratulations, Your Majesty. The crown is yours. Everything the weird sisters promised you has come to pass. You must be so happy.”

“Shut up,” Macbeth whispered.

The ghost inspected a gash in his doublet, poking at the bloodied hole beneath. “You do realize, don’t you, that you didn’t have to do any of this?” He pulled a strand of flesh up through the tear in the cloth. Macbeth watched in fascinated revulsion. “A prophecy is a prophecy. Fate is fate. What’s meant to be will be.” Banquo tugged at the piece of flesh and seemed a bit surprised when it came out completely. “You didn’t have to kill anyone. Now you have to be suspicious, always watching for the knife over your shoulder, lest anyone find out – or do to you what you did to old Duncan.”

“Shut up,” Macbeth begged.

“You know, I think that’s a piece of my intestine.” Even he looked rather repulsed. He flicked it away. Macbeth followed it with his eyes until it hit the floor and vanished. When he turned back to Banquo, he found the ghost regarding him curiously. “Look what it’s done to you,” Banquo said, sounding almost sad. “Look what you’ve done to yourself.”

“Shut up,” Macbeth moaned.

“You can stop now, you know,” Banquo said quietly. “You don’t have to go any further. No one else knows. No one but me had any reason to suspect you. You have nothing left to worry about.”

“Shut up! You’re lying!” Macbeth shrieked. “I can’t rest – I can’t rest until Malcolm and Donalbain are dead, until all of Scotland has pledged fealty to me.”

“Macbeth…”

“Enough! You’re lying! You just want to see me fail, don’t you?” Banquo sighed. Macbeth jabbed his finger at him accusingly. “You just want your son on the throne. Ha! You thought I’d forgotten? You want me to stop worrying so your son can stab me in the back!”

Banquo’s lip curled involuntarily into a sneer. Anger washed over his expression once more, drowning the pity that had crept in. “Fate is fate, Macbeth.”

He stood and stepped forward. Macbeth tried to stand his ground, but terror filled him. “Stay away!” he screamed as he staggered back. “Stay away!” He hit the tapestried wall with a soft thump.

“He will be king.” The ghost leaned in, so close their noses almost touched. “And there is nothing you can do about it.”

A Slowly Kindled Light

An old diary entry, probably from April:

“You don’t have to be nice all of the time.”

I was Crash who said it. I don’t remember when; I dont’ remember what I said to prompt it. I just remember his voice saying it, and the force with which the answer rose from within me: Yes I do! Yes I do, or I might forget.”

I didn’t say it, though. I didn’t know him well enough at the time, and even now I don’t know if I would have. No point ruining a cheerful moment, and I suppose it would be a bit selfish – kind of making it all about me, and forcing everyone to deal with my issues without any warning. Not very fair.

I wanted to. It didn’t just rise up within me; it boiled up, scalding and bubbling and fluidly unstoppable. It’s been a part of me for so long, the knowledge that I have to be nice, that I don’t even notice it anymore. I’m not sure why it erupted just then, so violent and anguished. Perhaps because I’d started daring to believe that with them, I wouldn’t have to. Perhaps it was before I dared believe it. I don’t remember when it was, so it’s hard to say.

When seeking a name for my recent troubles, I once called them ‘a crisis of identity’. That’s not what they are, but it’s a decent name. In a way, what’s been happening has forced me to reevaluate the way I view myself. I don’t know if I’ve changed a lot, or if I’ve changed a little but only now noticed changes that have been happening for years; one way or another, I have to redefine the way I build my relationships and the way I protect myself.

A few weeks ago – maybe less – all this got me thinking about the last time I had what could be called a crisis of identity. At first it was just for comparison: “I haven’t been this confused and upset since I was twelve!” (Later, “I haven’t been this upset since I was twelve, and now I have even more in my head confusing me.”) But then (I should have seen it coming), I started worrying about the things that worried me then.

Or, well, not quite. Some of it really is settled and done. Back then I’d decided – or come to believe – or something like that – that all people are born with a certain amount of good and evil in their souls and, based on evidence, been forced to conclude that I was born more dark than light. By nature I am selfish, proud, vain, condescending, inconsiderate, egotistical, lazy, irresponsible, forgetful (even when it’s important), suspicious, bossy, unforgiving, arrogant, and apt to think that everyone should adapt to me, especially when I am having problems. This is not indicative of an abundance of goodness, and well I knew it (and still do). Indeed, a lot of the anguish and confusion I was feeling at the time left me when I finally admitted it to myself: I am not, by nature, a good person.

I don’t remember how I came to the next conclusion, the one that eventually saved me: I may not have been born bright, but I can strengthen the light within me. Nurture it gently, teach it to shine, hold back the darkness with all of my might. One thing I do remember clearly is a day on which I was walking a lap for P.E. and musing on this. I was disturbed by the realizations I was only just coming to. I was thinking on Septimus Heap – I don’t remember the connection exactly – and on how, if I hadn’t been raised by the family I have, I could easily have turned into a terrible person. I have the potential for good, which they have managed to bring out in me, but I have the predisposition to be very, very bad.

I distinctly remember the thought, curling through my mind, wrapped ’round a story as so many of my thoughts were (and sometimes still are).  I remember the frightening and inescapable weight of it. How hard it was to face.

I don’t remember any attempt to run away from it – I think once it had manifested itself so clearly in my conscious mind, I could never pretend it didn’t exist. I don’t remember it even being an option. I suppose the weight of its inevitability was so great that I knew it was true.  All evidence backed it, and so did my gut feeling. It hurt and it scared me, but it was true.

So I was born dark. Undeniably, irrefutably. Fine. I didn’t have to stay dark. If my family had changed me this much, then they would likely continue to do so, and I could further the process myself. I knew what I wanted to be: good. I had read enough books to know what that meant: compassionate, respectful, selfless, understanding, not a burden to others, and appreciative of the abilities of everyone. All I had to do, then, was work at it.

I did. It was hard. No surprise there, really.

I had to keep a tight clamp on any feelings of superiority, which half of my erstwhile classmates were making rather difficult. The real problem, though, was my mom, who had responded to all of their teasing by, basically, telling me I was awesome. When she realized how sarcastically I received this praise, or perhaps for some other reason that I just dont’ know, she started telling me in earnest that I am smarter than most people my age. More intelligent. A better brain, or at least more efficiently used. And all this while I was trying to be a better person and not look down on anyone.

I eventually realized/decided that I might be more intelligent than most, but that didn’t make me better because everyone had some talent or skill at which they excelled – everyone was better than me in some way, so it was okay for me to be better than them in this way. And besides, ‘most’ didn’t mean ‘everyone’. There were and are plenty of people at least as intelligent as I am and often more; if I kept that in mind, it kept me humble.

I learned to keep down my darker tendencies; to be constantly in control. Sometimes I would start feeling comfortable around someone and forget. Luckily, I only felt that comfortable around people I liked and respected, so I was never (as far as I know) accidentally nasty to someone; but sometimes I would catch myself being condescending, and sometimes I’d notice some deeply selfish thing I was doing or assuming or saying and not know how to stop myself.

Time is the greatest teacher. I eventually figured it out. I learned to think of others, to not say anything unless I was sure it was safe, and to not look down on people. I’m far from perfect, though. I still act selfishly, even if I’ve learned to think more kindly. I recently discovered that the reason I think so well of everyone is that I just don’t hold them to the same standards as I hold myself. That is hardly non-condescending, and it limits my pool of friends back to what it’s always been, because I can’t truly be friends with someone I hold to lower standards than myself.

This doesn’t actually bother me too much, even if it should, so I’ll deal with it when I’m not so preoccupied with so many other things. But it is proof positive that I’m not as good a person even as I thought I was. I have to keep at it.

So until I’ve become good, or until I’ve found another way I want to be, or maybe forever – God, I hope not forever – then yes, I do have to be nice all the time.

Magic is where you find it

I step out the front door, into the night. The wind slams down the street. If this were the big city, it would be howling against the sides of the buildings, using their resistance to strengthen its fury. Here it shakes the trees, their leaves rustling so loud and forcefully that it sounds like rain is pounding down. I step away from under the eaves, down the short cement path. The light beside the front door reaches its limit a few feet ahead, only just beyond where the path turns sharply to the right and toward the driveway. My shadow looms before me, huge and monstrous. The wind hits, rushing down the street, and the tree beside me roars out a battle cry. Its branches hang above me, arching over the path. The leaves look nearly black. Where the lantern shines on them they are rich, dark red.

I stop at the edge of the path, still in the tree’s shelter. The sky is vast, piercing blue. Midnight blue, navy blue, lapis lazuli – the color is endless as only the sky can be. Stars shine like holes in the endlessness, fierce white fire. The street is not dark, for all the lamplight cannot reach it. The stars are too bright for that.

The wind comes in waves, in rushes. The rain-thunder sound of thrashing trees comes from all around. I hesitate to go any further, to leave the protection of the branches above me. I almost don’t dare. Finally I take just two steps forward and look up, at the distantly familiar map of the stars. They shimmer brilliantly, and I smile at the sight of them. I don’t linger, staying only just long enough to fill my eyes with stars before I retreat once more to the safety of my tree. The wind slams me, and the night feels full of intent, the wind and the trees and the stars and the sky all echoing with the same wild force. I look out into the night and it thrums, reckless and alive.

Crickets

I have a strange love affair with Orion the Hunter. Perhaps because his distinctive belt makes him the only constellation I can always pick out with certainty, seeing him in the sky always makes me smile. I feel safe. Protected. As if the vast sky is suddenly my friend.

I looked for him in the sky every time I stepped into the garden to watch the stars. I never found him. I’ve missed him. Missed his protection.

Eventually I stopped going out so often. It doesn’t help that the garden is lifeless and bare. The earth isn’t brown; it’s grey. The gardeners my mom hired to tend to things while we were away apparently thought everything in the back garden was a weed, and eradicated it all. They only left the trees that line the back fence. They may even have been right about the weeds, but it’s still weird to have a grey garden.

There is one patch of grass, right by the edge of the patio. It sort of swoops around to the side of the house. Crickets live in that grass; I hear them chirping sometimes when I go out. There used to be more of them, back when the weeds had not been BRUTALLY TORN from the WEEPING EARTH – I mean back when we still lived here. We would lie in bed, my sister and I, and fall asleep to the sound of crickets.

Windows in Denmark are thick, for insulation. Most of them have double panes of glass. Ours were so good you could barely hear a car if it zoomed past right outside. We slept in silence. For the first few nights we had trouble falling asleep at all. It happened in reverse when we returned: the crickets were so loud that they kept us up at first. Only our jet-lag saved us from sleeplessness.

There are so many animals here. I don’t remember noticing them back when I was growing up here. There are the crickets, of course, and there are ladybugs and daddy-long-legs and the occasional butterfly. There are ants. (I hate ants, and with good reason.) There are the crows that perch at the top of our fir trees, cawing and cackling and flapping about like black heralds of doom. There have been a few blue jays rooting through the barren earth under the trees, and a dove or two. None of this is new, not really; there’s just the novelty of long absence.

But then there’s the flock of wild turkeys on the hill at the end of the street, and the tiny lizards that flit out of my way when I walk home from school. The squirrel that dove into its burrow when I passed. The ducks in the creek a block away from my house. The furry brown creature that might have been a mouse that vanished into a bush almost before I’d caught sight of it. The birds I’m almost certain were quails that rustled in the shrubbery for a full minute as I walked down the path. The hawk perched on a telephone pole, so still I almost didn’t notice it.

I don’t remember seeing these things before. I don’t remember noticing that this city does its best not to be just an urban mess of streets, and that its best is pretty good. I was probably too busy with whatever book I’d been reading lately, and it makes sense that I’d pay more attention now that this place isn’t familiar anymore. But it’s still jarring to see all these animals I didn’t know we had.

What’s even odder is the smell of dust. My way home from school is lined with half-wild greenery (where I see most of the animals that are so strange to me), and I go past a golf course, a park, two scenic paths and a creek, all carefully maintained by the city (and the owners of the golf course, whoever they are); all filled with Californian flora and fauna (and neat lawns in the golf course). It’s beautiful and varied, and I love it; but California is (sort of) desert country. It’s dry. The earth here is so dry in the summer that it sifts into the air. This mingles with the smell of the dry, dry plants – particularly the resin-filled aroma from the fallen needles of the evergreens, for some reason – to make a peculiar flavor of air that cannot be escaped. Sometimes it’s even overwhelming. I still don’t know if I like it or not. It feels like it should be unpleasant, and it almost is, but it’s so familiar.

It reminds me of my childhood. Of… of small adventures. Going into the woods, even if it was just the wild jungle of my own backyard, was always the beginning of an adventure, and in the summer it always smelled like this. (The rest of the year wasn’t all that different – just wetter.)

Yesterday it rained. It was the first time in a long, long time – only the second time since I’ve been here. I haven’t missed the rain – the sky here is so big that somehow it doesn’t matter if we never get any rain – but it was still nice to see it again. It made the day special. Like fireworks at Disneyland: you know they’re nothing out of the ordinary, but they’re fireworks. It’s special.

The rain here feels like a guest. It’s not like Denmark, where it changes the entire tone of the world; here it just colors the air, leaving the buildings and the ground fundamentally unchanged. It lasted most of the afternoon, and yesterday night was one of the clearest nights I’ve seen. The moon was like a lantern. I could see stars so small they should have been invisible. I gaped up at the sky, a grin of wonder on my face, and breathed in the freshness of the world after rain, surrounded by the underlying dusty presence of summer.

And for the first time since I came here, I saw Orion shining brightly in the sky, just for me.

Roots

People talk a lot about growing roots. It’s important, it’s said, to be grounded somewhere. To have a place to which you can always go back because you are woven into the very soil.

I lived in El Serrano, California – a city on a hillside, I believe – until I was four. Then we moved to Saramin, in the eponymous valley. Every summer we would go to Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro, which is towards the top of a cluster of mountains. When I was fourteen we moved to Denmark, and now we’ve moved back. My mother’s family is from Rio and São Paulo on her father’s side and from Rio and Belo Horizonte on her mother’s. My father’s mother was from Texas and his father was British; they met in Brazil and raised their kids there. I don’t really have roots.

A few years ago I read a book in which it was stated that “The landscape of the first seven years of your life will stay with you forever, and forever be dear to your heart.” (Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing.) But my first seven years were in two different places! I worried. It saddened me to no end, the thought that I would have no such cherished landscape. It seemed like such a gift.

A few months later, I went on a trip to Bornholm, a Danish island which lies squarely between Sweden and Germany and which distinguishes itself from the rest of Denmark by being made of granite and full of (rather tiny) hills and cliffs. I was in heaven. I discovered quite abruptly that I adore mountains, and that I missed them to no end. I don’t need to be in them or climbing them or anything – I just need to have them around me. It occured to me that my whole life (until Denmark), I’ve lived in places that were surrounded by steep slopes, even if only at some distance. I’m not used to empty horizon on all sides. Just like that, my worries evaporated: my first-seven-years-of-your-life landscape lies unbroken in my heart.

And now I’ve been to another country. Coming back isn’t even strange. There’s no deja vu. I’m already used to the enormous size of everything, at least most of the time. My house feels like my house. Even the heat feels familiar. I find myself hoping that my voice sounds different, that I have the slightest accent. I want these past four years to have left their mark on me. I want people to know I’m not from here, at least for a little while. Maybe just until I am from here again.

To be honest, I’ve never wanted to live in one place my whole life. I remember listening to some of my teachers talking about how their family had been in Saramin for generations. I remember the horror I felt at the thought of it. Never, I thought vehemently. I will see things before I settle down. I will go to many places. I will live in many places.

Sometimes I envied them their roots, though. It must be nice to know that you are surrounded by family and old friends, that you are in a place where you belong. I don’t belong anywhere in particular, but then, I never have. I’m an American with Brazilian parents who spent her childhood in books and then moved to another continent and back. I’m at least slightly foreign no matter where I go.

I don’t worry any more, though. I know where my roots are. I am rooted to the people I love. These people are my home, my harbor, my safe place. The ground that keeps me steady. I can spend the rest of my life wandering the world and never be lost, because my roots are strong no matter where I might be.

Saudade

I miss you.

It’s just something I say. Lately it’s been true every time, but I’m used to missing people. I’m used to being far away from the ones I love. Nearly all of my family lives in Brazil, and I only see them once a year, if that.

I’m also used to getting what I want. I don’t often want unreasonable things. I used to – I used to want to go on adventures and fight dragons and ride a horse and never do my homework. But I’ve learned, and I don’t often truly, desperately want impossible things anymore. I want cookies, I want good teachers, I want to learn languages, I want to read good books. I want things I can fetch for myself, or things that I can reasonably expect to get.

But I want my friends back. I want to see them, to hear them, to feel them sitting next to me. I want to hold them tight and feel their arms around me. I want to laugh with them. I want to know they’re there. I want to spend all night talking with them. I want them back.

My brain is nice to me. It blocks out painful memories, or at least it blocks out memories of pain. I don’t remember crying much when I moved to Denmark, although my mother tells me that I did. I don’t remember much from the months before we moved – I don’t even remember movies I watched then, which is a bit scary in a way. I don’t particularly remember most of these past two months. It helps that I didn’t do much – just sat around on my computer, read books, wrote stories, watched movies. I didn’t do anything. I even remember wondering how much of it I would forget.

I don’t remember how unhappy I was. In a few weeks I probably won’t remember today, either. I won’t remember that I’m crying right now.

I annoy myself. I’m so self-indulgent. I’m so used to getting what I want that when I don’t, I just sort of mope about, giving people pitiful, begging looks. (Usually this is when I want someone to make me food because navigating the fridge seems impossibly hard.) I know that I’m being ridiculous, so I rarely break down and ask for anything, and my family is not prone to giving me things just because I give them puppy eyes. So I’ve learned to get things for myself or go without. (Again, usually food.) And yet, because what I truly want is always something I can easily get, I still haven’t learned to just grow up and deal with it.

They’re so far away, and I don’t know what to do.

I knew it would be like this. I knew I’d be miserable. I’ve moved before, and these are the most amazing friends. I expected this. I even packed my biggest stuffed animal in my hand luggage for the express purpose of hugging him whenever I needed to cry.

The problem with forgetting my misery like this is that I don’t learn to cope very well. Every new misery feels almost as fresh as the last. And I haven’t been properly miserable in weeks, so my mind has presumably deemed it safe to throw out all the memories that could help me get some perspective right now.

I’m going to have to go through a year of this. Maybe a little less. Presumably I’ll get better at it. People do, I’m told. There’s no reason why I should be any different. I have been getting better at it.

It’s odd. A few days ago I was unhappy that I couldn’t make myself miss them enough to curl up into a little ball and sob for longing. I’m so good at pushing my feelings back, at distracting myself, at not missing people that I can’t cry for any extended period of time. My mind wanders over to other things and won’t let me.

They were all unhappy yesterday, for one reason or another. Or maybe it wasn’t all of them, but it felt like it. Mostly they just had bad days at work, or ran into unpleasant people. Maybe this is what’s making me feel this way. I want to be there and cheer them up. I do the best I can from over here, and sometimes I succeed, but I want to hug them and laugh with them and talk about random things until they’re smiling again. If I’m being honest with myself, there’s no reason I’d have been able to do it in Denmark, either; it’s not like I would necessarily have seen them just then. Maybe this was just a reminder of how far away I am. Maybe that’s why it hurts.

Every language has certain words that are untranslatable, and of which native speakers are often very proud. In Danish it’s hyggelig, which has many meanings, but mostly means a warm, happy feeling of being surrounded by good things, of being content. In Portuguese it’s saudade, which means that special longing for something that you no longer have. The sorrow of being parted from someone you love.

It’s a good word. It doesn’t have to be tragic. It doesn’t have to be permanent. It doesn’t even have to be serious.

It just hurts, that’s all.

My Grandparents

My grandparents are coming over today. They’re staying in a hotel, which is best for all of us considering we don’t have beds for them or even that many chairs to sit in, but they’ll be here for a week or so.

I haven’t seen them in a long time, so I miss them. But I also feel kind of awkward about it, because… well, it’s awkward.

My grandfather is quiet. He’s very intelligent, too, but he doesn’t love children as much as my grandmother, so I didn’t get to know him as well when I was younger. I want to know him better now, but I don’t know how, so I’m shy around him.

My grandmother is – eh – a very forceful woman. She’s very intelligent, but she also always wants to be the center of attention. If you say something she doesn’t like and doesn’t want to respond to, she will go temporarily deaf. If things are not done the way she likes, she will either complain or get a terse expression on her face – one of long-suffering disapproval. I don’t actually have to deal with her much – I don’t have to deal with her unpleasant side, that is – because my mom has always shielded us from her. But lately I’ve tried to shield her a little in return, give her a little relief. Pay her back, as it were.

Then a few years ago I lost all respect for my grandmother in one night, and I haven’t quite been able to get it back. This means I have to watch myself around her, because I might easily lose my temper and snap at her. I feel bad for being useless to my mother, though; if I’m like this around my grandmother, I can’t promise my mother some time off while I talk to her, not for long. And I really, really don’t want to get into a fight with her. It would end up being bad for my mom more than for me, which isn’t fair.

And the two of them bicker constantly – my grandparents, that is. Actually, it’s just my grandmother constantly nagging my grandfather about something, and he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t appear to mind, and sometimes you can see that they still love each other. It’s odd, but it’s their way.

I should be happy to see them again. I should be feeling bubbly with anticipation. Instead I don’t feel much of anything.