Nyssa Jo Wallace
I have three housemates. One is a boy my age. The other two are retired. We all share the same last name.
It’s midday during the work week when Dad asks, “Why do you think you’ve disappointed us?”
“Have you seen me?” I joke, propping my crossed leg against the Forester’s dashboard. It’s a common joke for me. Out of the two of us, I’m a much bigger mess than my brother.
“Nyssa I’m serious.”
I slumped down in the leather seat, watching familiar houses pass by. One more year to be in my 20s but I still live with my parents. And there is my mental health, diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Sometimes, I can’t be left alone for days at a time because I stop taking care of myself.
Usually, when I’m in a slump and I clearly look distressed, my father will ask “What’s wrong, sweetie?” and I will reply, “Everything.” He will roll his eyes, make some joke about how good my life actually is, and that will be the end of it. Now, he’s adapting to my avoidance.
“Does it ever embarrass you that I still live at home?”
“No,” he says. “Should it?”
“I don’t know.” I stare at the textured plastic of the door. “I am. Sometimes. I mean, I’m college educated and in my 20s but I still live at home with my parents. It’s kinda embarrassing.”
He does that, questions things that should have obvious answers to see that his children think critically. One thing he didn’t raise is cogs in a machine.
“I always figured I’d be on my own by now,” I reply. “That I would have a decent job and a house. Maybe not a husband and 2.5 kids, but at least out there, being a member of society. Instead… I’m just… here.”
It’s not that I don’t want to move out. I do. But on top of my depression, how am I supposed to move out? How can I afford it? I can’t hold down a job. When a future in a company looks promising, I’m laid off. Am I supposed to hold my breath and jump?
My friends did. Most of them moved out of their parents homes. Some have significant others. Most live in apartments. Some plan to buy a house.
Why can’t I be there?
“Is that what you think our expectations are?”
I look over at him. He lines up the car, preparing to back into our driveway. “Yes.”
“They aren’t.” He starts backing the car up.
“Oh.” I swivel my glance to the backup camera. Dad doesn’t use it, opting for the mirrors. I do that too, but I watch the monitor when in the passenger seat.
“My expectations for you is that you should be happy.”
Pinpricks form in the corner of my eyes as heat builds in the tip of my nose. My period is probably going to start soon. I stopped regulating it when I lost my health insurance. The screen on the dashboard gets blurry.
“I like having you around,” Dad continues. “Besides, it’s not like you mooch off me.”
“True.” I pay rent and my portion of groceries and utilities. I alternate cooking days with my mother. I vacuum and dust when needed. “Still…”
“I don’t see it as you living with your parents.” He presses the button that turns the engine off, the screen in front of me going blank. “It’s more like a Multi-Generational Household. We just happen to be related.”
I wipe the tears away. Yeah… I could work with that.