We sit on the mantelpiece, encased by frames made of cheap wood concealed by a polished layer of ivory lacquer. The glossy white pops against the ornate mantelpiece. Mom told the neighbors the mantel was made of the finest mahogany we could find (it wasn’t). In the rightmost frame is a snapshot of my sister, looking pretty and peppy and ponytailed in her cheerleading uniform. She wasn’t looking quite so squeaky-clean last weekend as she stumbled out of a filthy car, her makeup smeared and her hair smelling like an ashtray. Just beside hers is a photograph of me. I appear concentrated and confident as I play my violin. My hair is elegant and my all-black ensemble looks well put-together. It’s such a shame that I’m actually a nutcase, a psycho, a freak, constantly on a seesaw of emotions. On the opposite side is a picture of my brother, seemingly the All-American boy in his football uniform. You would never guess from looking at him that his grades are in the toilet or that he is the school’s most infamous drug dealer. In the center of the mantelpiece is a family portrait, and we come off as the epitome of The Perfect Family. Our khakis are wrinkle-free and our matching white turtlenecks are almost as dazzling as our smiles. My father’s uncontrollable temper is nowhere to be seen in his jovial grin, my mother’s dependency on her beloved red wine is undetectable. No one would ever suspect that we don’t get along, that my parents don’t listen; they just lecture us and scream at each other. No one would ever think that we, unlike these perfectly white frames, are empty.
May 26, 2010