After my parent’s divorce, my mom had several gentlemen callers and I hated all of them. There was Wallace, the freakishly tall man who I thought would crush me if I crossed him. There was Steve who didn’t like cartoons and changed the channel a lot. There was Kenneth who liked Sabrina the Teenage Witch and looked a lot like Steve. Then there was Herb.
Herb was a professor at the University of Houston, a Jungian scholar. He would take my mother and I out to orchestra concerts which I found totally boring. I was six years old, sitting on the hill of the Woodlands Pavilion, and asking my mom when we could go home. Herb would tell me to be patient and close my eyes and tell me what I saw.
“I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING. MY EYES ARE CLOSED.”
Herb told me to use my “mind’s eye”.
“WHAT IS THAT? MOM I’M HUNGRY CAN I HAVE A DIGIORNOS?”
Herb tried to form me into a precocious academic who laughed at things like PBS and ate pate and wore scarves. Thankfully, Herb and my mom broke up and I was allowed to laugh at dick and fart jokes and eat nachos again.
For about a year, it was just me and my mom and I would see my dad every other weekend. I look back on that time in my life and feel bad for my dad. All he wanted was to see his son, and I was too young to really know what was going on or to care. If I could go back in time and relive my childhood, I would definitely spend more time with my father, who lived right down the road.
Then, one Saturday morning, my mom woke me up and told me to grab my bathing suit. We were going to Splashtown for the day and we were going to hang out with a new friend of hers then have a sleepover at his place. I was promised that he had three kids around my age. I had never been to a water park before so I was very excited. I normally wasn’t allowed in pools because I’m missing an ear drum. But I had these slick new custom made earplugs and I was itching to show them off.
When we arrived at Splashtown, I met my mom’s new friend: Darby. He was a handsome man who was very nice to my mom and I. He was funny too. I felt really comfortable hanging out with this guy.
His three kids, however, were the worst people I had ever met. There was the eldest, Darby (there’s Big Darby and Little Darby), the middle child, Nathan, and the youngest, a girl named Megan. They were like a little club that wasn’t accepting any new members and if you even asked you got made fun of. After Splashtown, we all went to Hastings to rent a movie to be watched at Big Darby’s house. I wanted to watch an Ernest movie but Darby’s kids wanted to watch Caddyshack 2.
I would like to interrupt this story to apologize for my behavior in the Hastings. I was young and it was the first experience I can remember of losing my only child privileges.
Once I realized I wasn’t going to get to watch the movie I wanted, I freaked out a little bit. Ok, a lot. I threw VHS tapes around, I yelled, I cried and when we finally went home to watch the movie, I sat in another room out of spite. It was the loneliest 98 minutes of my life. The movie ended and my rebellion ended when I heard “CONNER, PIZZA!” Like a bat out of hell, I ran to the kitchen. Oh boy, Papa Johns! I sat at a table with Little Darby, Nathan and Megan while my mom and Big Darby sat on the couch. As we were eating, Little Darby looked at me and said “Did you know that we’re vampires?”
I stopped eating my pizza. I wasn’t quite sure I heard him right. I asked him to repeat himself and he did.
“Yeah, we’ve been vampires since we were born,” said Nathan.
I was a little uneasy. I had never met vampires before.
“Wait, we were out in the sun all day! You aren’t vampires,” I told them. I read a lot of Encyclopedia Brown so I wasn’t easily fooled.
“Duh, we were wearing sunscreen remember?”
Damn. Real life vampires, right in front of my face.
Megan finally chimed in. “Yeah, at night we have to feed, but your mom is too old.”
Ohcrapohcrapohcrap. I was staying the night at this house. I needed to let my mom know that she had been charmed by a Daddy Dracula and we were both about to be MURDERED. I tried to get my mom alone so we could devise a plan to get out of here but she must have still been mad at me because of my tantrum at Hastings because she wouldn’t believe me and just laughed. I was going to have to do this one by myself. I didn’t know much about vampires beyond what I learned from the Groovie Ghoulies. I didn’t have a cross on me, but I did know where I could get some garlic. After all, the pizza did come from Papa John’s. I grabbed the garlic dipping sauce cup that came with the pizza and I drank the whole thing.
I got yelled at for chugging it and while no one even liked the dipping sauce it was the principle of the thing and I should have asked and blah blah blah. I didn’t have time for social etiquette when my very humanity was on the line. I lied about brushing my teeth and I went to bed with gnarly garlic breath and slept comfortably knowing those vampires weren’t going to turn me into one of their own kind. It was too late for my mother, but casualties happen. She would be mourned and I’d live in the woods behind my house and go to school when I felt like it.
I woke up the next morning and felt the repercussions of chugging a cup of garlic sauce. My mom seemed to be fine though. I went to the breakfast table and sat with Little Darby, Nathan and Megan. I nervously asked these nascent Nosferatus about their nightly vampiric activities. Little Darby looked up at me and said, “We were lying, idiot.”
My mom and Big Darby ended up getting married after six months of dating and are still married to this day. Little Darby, Nathan and Megan all became my siblings and I rarely if ever call them my “stepsiblings”. I consider us all to be the closest thing to blood relatives as you can get and they were the most influential people in my life. I looked up to Little Darby and would sneak into his room to read his books or listen to his CDs. Megan, unfortunately, moved in with her mom in California, but I still remember fondly when she would visit and she, Nathan and I would play at Lake Conroe. Nathan and I shared a room for nearly a decade and I consider him to be one of my best friends. I love Darby and Megan as well, but there is something special about a roommate relationship. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t sleep with a wooden stake under my pillow.