Jack brought his glass from the kitchen into the living room and squeezed through the space between two chairs to sit down on his seat. He took a sip from his glass, his fifth coke that evening, and leaned forward to place it on the table. Thinking, he held on in midair and decided to keep it in his hands. He’d probably take another sip any minute. There wasn’t much else he could do.
Family meetings were always quite hard. He had wondered so often why that is, but his mind wouldn’t come up with a plausible answer. Was it because he had a boring family? He actually didn’t think so. In fact, he looked forward to seeing his family whenever they haven’t done so in a while. When they all met, his parents, his aunts, his cousins, his grand-aunts and their children and last but not least his grandma, he enjoyed their company for a bit; they were funny, had interesting topics and never really sat in silence.
Most remarkable were the fights. He grinned when thinking about the rule; fighting was only allowed after 8pm. He knew how hard this was to abide by, but surprisingly it worked most of the time. After eight though, the problems that simmered at the bottom of the pot started coming to the top like the bubbles of boiling water. Last Christmas, his cousin had had a serious breakdown. He disappeared into the bedroom in tears and talked to Jack’s dad for ages. In the end, it came out that his cousin was jealous because Jack got more attention from his grandma although he barely sees her or takes care of her, whereas his cousin visits her probably at least once a week.
Jack could understand him and didn’t feel that it was just either. He wasn’t asking for the attention in particular. Yes, he thought it was worth watching, but for him there was always the same feeling emerging after a few hours, a bad feeling, like something was not right, somehow he felt out of place. So what made these days so hard? A few times now, he felt like he didn’t belong to his family. He often kept quiet because he just couldn’t relate to what they were talking about. Sometimes his opinion was so different that he didn’t even bother discussing it. He knew they wouldn’t understand him, anyway.
His dad once again led the conversation onto Turkish immigrants who, after him, are stealing the jobs from them. He reasoned that this is why the unemployment rate is rising. Jack had argued against it so often, saying how stupid this idea is, as the same terms apply to all citizens. He just doesn’t want to listen. One of his aunts is actually on Jack’s side and tries to argue his points. He wondered why he didn’t join in. Normally, he would be the first to argue. Among his friends, he was known for his annoying willingness to discuss everything, from the importance of not giving bread crumbs to swans up to the use of “I” in an academic essay.
He was sitting around the table with his own family, where he should be able to be himself. He just realized that he was less himself there, then anywhere else. He remembered his mum saying once that he was strange and boring when they were around their family. Why was that? He just made people think wrong about him. Maybe disliking this false character was better than them disliking his true nature. Jack knew he was afraid of them not accepting him, because he felt so different. After all, he was the only one who actually went to University after school, wasn’t he?
He couldn’t pretend to belong to them. So he pretended to not belong to them instead. Jack took the last sip of his coke. This didn’t make sense to him either. “I don’t think you see the greater picture, here, dad.” His dad sighed, knowing what his son would have to say.