Mario Kart and Tamales
In the car on the way to Jed’s, part of me felt like crying, and part of me felt like smiling and never stopping. I was finally getting a surgery that would help me feel like me, and yet I felt bad about it.
“You’re quiet,” Dad said. “Want some music on?”
“No, that’s okay.” I said.
“Did it go well?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I feel bad that you’re paying for this though.”
“Cameron, don’t worry about me. The insurance is helping an awful lot, and after living with Don and his family for years and only paying part of utilities and the mortgage sometimes, I have a lot saved up.”
“It should be yours and I’m taking it.”
“I hoped everyday for years that someday I’d be able to send my little… my child to college, or on a trip after high school, or anything of the sort. I would’ve happily paid for a house for us and your traveling baseball team or music lessons or whatever you wanted. I may not work the best paying job in the world, but I want to spend my money on things that are worth it to me, and anything that makes you happy is worth it. So don’t feel bad, okay?”
I nodded, staring out the window and attempting to keep my tears in my eyes.
By the time we got to Jed’s house, I didn’t feel like crying anymore, and I was excited to eat. My dad and I got out of the car and walked up to the front door. I knocked, and we waited for it to open. When it did, a girl maybe close in age to Annelies answered the door.
“Hi,” my dad said.
She turned back into the house. “Isaiah, your friend is here!”
A few seconds later, Jed and Isaiah came down the stairs and let us in.
“Jamey, you dummy, you should’ve at least let them in.” Isaiah yelled.
“Mom said not to let strangers into the house!” she yelled back. Jed smiled at me, and I stifled a laugh. “You’re Cameron’s dad?” Jed asked, looking at my father.
“You can call me Jeremy,” he said, sticking out his hand. Jed shook it. “You can call me Jed.” He motioned for us to follow, and he led us to the kitchen. “This is Isaiah’s mom,” Jed said, pointing at the woman at the sink. She smiled and dried off her hands.
“Jed has talked about you so much, Cameron,” she said. “I’m Laney.”
“I’m Jeremy,” Dad said, reaching out to shake Laney’s hand.
After they exchanged pleasantries, Jed took us to the living room, where Isaiah, the girl from the door, a boy her age, and a middle-aged man were playing Mario Kart.
“This is Isaiah,” Jed said, pointing at him, “and Jonah and Jamey and their dad, Marco.”
“I would greet you properly, but these kids are kicking my butt,” Marco said.
I smiled. Even if this wasn’t the absolute perfect place for Jed, it seemed like a really good one.
When the race was over, Marco set down his controller and got up to talk to my dad. “Want a beer?” he asked. My dad said yes, and they went to the kitchen.
“Jed, you should play,” the boy, Jonah said.
“Nah, I don’t feel like it. Cam, you want to play?”
I shrugged. “I’ve never played.”
“It’s not that hard,” Jed said. “I can give you pointers.”
“Okay,” I agreed. I picked up the controller and sat down on the couch. Jed showed me which button to hold down to make the car move. “And the arrow keys to steer, obviously.”
Once we started a race, he showed me how to use items and how to drift. I got last place for the first couple races, but by the time Laney called me for dinner, I had managed to get in the top three twice.
“Not too shabby,” Isaiah said, grinning at me as Jonah and Jamey ran to the kitchen.
“Thanks,” I said. Isaiah had won nearly every race.
Laney made tamales and a taco bar for dinner.
“I didn’t know if either of you liked tamales,” she said.
“I’ve never had one,” I admitted.
“I don’t think I have either,” Dad said.
“Laney’s are the best in town,” Marco said, squeezing her shoulders.
“Oh quit, she said, blushing and hitting him with her oven mitt. “You’ll give them high expectations.”
We all loaded up our plates and sat down to eat. I thought everything was delicious, but I didn’t think my dad really liked the tamales. At dinner, Isaiah’s younger siblings talked a lot, but Isaiah’s parents tried to get to know me and my dad whenever Jonah and Jamey weren’t telling stories. I liked them, and part of me hoped that I would be able to stay with them after my top surgery.
Just when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, Laney got up and brought out a cake. “I made tres leches,” she said, smiling. Isaiah and Jonah cheered. I caught Jed’s eye and smiled, and he smiled back.
The cake was really good, and even though my stomach was extremely full, my brain wanted more cake. Isaiah and his siblings got up from the table and went back to the living room, and Jed motioned for me to follow him. I got up and followed him upstairs.
“Want to see me and Isaiah’s room?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
He went to the end of the hallway and opened a door. To my surprise, the room smelled like some sort of Febreeze.
“Smells good,” I said.
Jed laughed. “Isaiah’s dirty laundry always smelled bad, even though he claimed he couldn’t smell it, so I bought some air freshener. That’s where I sleep.” he pointed to a small mattress, a pillow, and a blanket on the floor. “It’s one of their old camping pads. It’s actually surprisingly comfortable.”
“Honestly,” Jed said. “And when Isaiah is up on his bed, I feel like he’s the king of the room and I’m the peasant or something.”
“Sowing the fields and covering up the bad smells.”
“Exactly,” Jed said, grinning. He sat down on his bed, and I sat on the floor across from him.
“How was the appointment?”
I shrugged. “Better than expected, I think. I felt pretty awkward almost the whole time.”
“Makes sense,” Jed said. “Are you happy?”
“I think so,” I said. “I feel bad about money, but my dad said not to worry about it.”
“Your dad seems really nice. I’m really happy you found him.”
“Me too,” I said.
“Cameron!” Dad called from downstairs.
Jed raised his eyebrows at me, and I shrugged. We headed downstairs to see what he wanted.
“We should probably get going,” he said. “I don’t want to overstay our welcome.”
“I do it all the time,” Jed said. Dad just stared at him, and then Jed smiled. “I was kidding. They’re really nice, though. They wouldn’t get mad if you stayed longer.”
“That’s okay, I don’t want to drive in the dark too much if I can avoid it.”
We made our way through the kitchen and the living room to say goodbye. Laney and Marco made their kids stop playing Mario Kart and walk us out of the house. Jamey and Jonah grumbled about it, but Isaiah waved and smiled as we pulled away.