He cannot imagine a worse nightmare than this, dinner with the family. What a terrible, terrible thing, a family, to be part of a family, to have to live within a family. Kato is sticking his fork into the medium-rare meat of the veal; repeatedly. The slaughtered, cooked, chewed cow-child.
A trickle of blood is flowing down the veiny texture of the open cut onto the plate and makes its way towards the rice and the vegetable, attracted, perhaps, by the possibility of infecting their boiled bodies with is foretaste of death. Blood, death, family: certain things that go together well in Kato’s mind.
25 years old, the wasteland between first sex and feeling hopelessly adult, which would be commitment to a definitive career, a false god. Kato scratches the back of his head where long, dark, shiny hair sprouts. His mane is that of a thoroughbred stallion. He is alpha on his X-country team, cream of the crop of the nation. If it weren’t for his inner life Kato might well be considered a prime specimen. The long legs, the taut muscle, the…
Who else is at the table with Kato, the clouded-eyed youth? Uncle Bruto on his father’s side, whose face is a catastrophe zone: one cannot look into it without thinking the world will come to an end soon. Why volcanoes when there is this proboscis, why telescopes and the moon surface when one can just consider the skin of this man’s face?
– May I propose a toast?
Bruto belches and Kato lowers his gaze back at the blood, feeling his own stir inside. Across from his Uncle sits Aunt Orphelia. She of great cunning and cruelty, a wild-haired 47. Once she had burnt a servant of hers with a hot skillet, on purpose but then pretended it had been an accident. Kato was nine at the time, had a huge crush on the servant and swore to himself to despise his Aunt henceforth. She has never failed in all these years to supply him with justifications.
He is still scratching the back of his head. Bad things lie ahead is what the itch says. Uncle Bruto speaks up once more.
– Yes, may I propose a toast, beloved family, to our dear Kato?
For a moment the knife in Kato’s hands has to be hurled, by all means, at his Uncle’s face so that it may take out an eye or cause other severe damage. The pleasure of this would justify a world in flames. Is it such a big deal to kill one of the family?
Kato’s father intervenes, shattering the momentary silence with his cool, his head of frost and profit calculation. When all ice has become water there will always be whatever it is that courses in this man’s veins.
– Oh please, please Bruto, spare us your cynicism. Yes? Your own brood has not fared so amazingly either now, has it? Aurelia getting nabbed during matric? Or Niels, haha, fencing for two-cent derelicts on the other side of town. Oh my! And your friends…
One word as though from Mount Pinatubo itself, out of Uncle Bruto’s effulgent mouth. A piece of chewed veal has become airborne and is flying, flying, flying, SPLAT onto Orphelia’s dinner dress. A dark red splotch against a fabric blackly. There are clicks and tinkles as everybody’s cutlery freighted with the tense mood, comes down to rest on plates and tabletop.
Bruto, Orphelia, father Harvey, mother Helen, the long black marble table, the chandelier, the cryptic whir of the night outside. Kato himself.
The youth is observing the entire scene from a distance, not a physical one but an internal one, a place to which he retires so he can survive the more gruesome episodes of family life. [The way Kato imagines it, it’s a throne of iron in a dimly lit chamber. At his feet squats a grizzled baboon who advises him not to worry, to remain calm. The chamber is lit by two far-away windows, which when he advances towards them, turn out to be his eyes. The voice of the baboon is massaging fingers on a knotted neck.]
His father and Bruto once got into a physical fight with bruises & broken teeth, they cannot spend an hour within each other’s presence without a serious argument. Yet they keep inviting each other because this is what they want or need or do not know how to live without. Bruto: the bile. His father: the fraternal rivalry with possibility of violence. Kato suspects that he secretly wishes to be violated the same way he batters his mother: a cosmi-comical equilibrium of fucked-up-ness. At the same time, Kato has come to understand that his theories about people and reality, when knuckle comes to bone, never check out.