I don't really like Steve. We're related and all and I guess I like him enough in that sense but there are things that he's done, that it's just hard to get over. I don't know him that well and I guess that has something to do with it. He seems to have two distinct characters that he plays well: Selfish Prick and Poor Schlub. Schlub? Is that even a real word? Well even if it isn't we'd have to coin it for Steve.
Steve gave me a hug on Christmas Eve last year to thank me for a DVD box set of Ice Road Truckers I got him. "Hey thanks bud," he said and came in and gave me a guy hug. You could tell he really wanted to have a 'moment' but he was so awkward he hardly got out the 'thank you' part before I was wrapped up and getting hard pats on the back. Before I could say "No problem Steve" he was off to his bedroom.
And whatever. I don't really need any moments with Steve. I accept his presence as a fact of life and occasionally we'll get along alright but seldom is it not tinged with a similar uncomfortableness. Hanging around Steve is kind of like going out for a beer after work with your boss, you can never really relax and say what you want to say because Steve will try to find some way to relate to it and then you're left in the wonderful position of deciding whether or not you want to try to explain what you were actually trying to say or just let him think you're a moron.
Me: "Oh look BP's prices are lower than everyone else's, guess they're trying to do some PR control."
Steve: "Yeah well, don't forget they had that big oil spill in the Gulf."
I pause for a moment when things like this happen: Does Steve really not think this is what I am referring to? Oil Spill in the Gulf Stever? What spill? Oh is that what all that hullaballoo on the news has been for the last FOUR FUCKING WEEKS? Oh maybe you're onto something.
It would probably be easy enough to say: "Yeah, that's what I'm talking about." Except I know that to continue down this line will ultimately just lead to more little hiccups like this, so I just settle on a "oh yeah". Steve can think I'm an idiot. I am ok with this.
I've found sports to be a reliable weapon in this area. I'm familiar enough with sports to carry on a conversation that will take up the bulk of a car ride. This works on two levels: 1. It eats up a lot of time. Especially during baseball season. I can steer the conversation to weeks worth of news just from random tid-bits I pick up from stray headlines in newpapers or blab I hear on sports radio when I need a good laugh. I've filled up damn near an hour just talking about how bad the Mets' starting rotation is, a subject I couldn't give a fuck about. 2. It steers the conversation away about talking about anything real. Like family problems, the future, what he thinks of so-and-so. I don't want to know. Because sooner or later it's going to lead to a big heated argument. Which I might add is long overdue between Steve and I. Plus I guess it creates a fake sense of male bonding. Guys talking about sports. This does backfire every once in a while when Steve decides he wants to take me out for a beer.
I don't want to go out for a beer. It's Sunday morning, well I guess afternoon, but I'm hungover. I need a ride because I had too much to drink the night before, I don't really want to go and have another one. I don't feel good. I don't want to keep pouring booze on things. But Steve is adamant. One beer won't kill ya. Well alright Steve, I guess I'm in debt to you for the ride so lead away. We end up at a biker bar. Steve is wearing short cargo shorts and sandals. He apparently frequents this bar because he always mentions people that go there or work there like I went to high school with them, this is the only reason I don't fear we will be beaten upon sight once entering. Steve enters and is welcomed with something less than a giant "Norm" cheer. It's more of a "hey Steve" followed by the patron staring back down at their beer. It's an older set. One guy looks distinctly like Santa Clause if he was altered for some douchey Harley Davidson shirt. He's wearing a red shirt which makes me think he's aware of the comparison, almost inviting it so he can smash a bottle over someones head for mentioning it.
There are a couple of younger, less distinct bikers sipping beers around the small bar. The woman behind the bar recognizes Steve right away. He makes some crack at her and she smiles in a way that suggests she's tolerating the joke, not participating in it. Steve is an outsider here and he seems to be the only one who is unaware of it. He introduces me to everyone but he does it like he's in a shitty action movie where the Colonel introduces his elite-squad of daredevils: "This is Johnson Killjoy; you need something blown up he's your guy".
"Hey this is Larry, what is it early Larry? You're usually onto shots by now, haha," he pats Larry on the back and Larry looks slightly amused by the fact that he's not punching Steve in the face.
He goes around the bar in this fashion and I, not wanting to be there but resigned to the fact that I am, politely nod or raise the tip of the bottle towards them. I don't talk much just gaze back and forth between television sets. No games on yet. That would make life easier. No just Fox News. I hope no one is watching it ready to spew off about how great Palin or Beck is or how Obama is submerging America into a Communist cesspool or whatever else. But the talk eventually gets around to politics. Some colorful adjectives get shot around and Steve looks uncomfortable but doesn't do anything to counter them. And neither do I for that matter. What's the point? I stopped arguing politics a long time ago and I figure this isn't the best place for a spirited debate.
Besides these guys aren't bad people as far as I can tell; they buy rounds for everyone (which Steve initiates in a move that smacks of desperation) I just don't agree with anything they say.
Mercifully the conversation steers elsewhere, about other locals, Steve without hesitation jumps in even though it seems rather obvious he hardly knows the people in question. Maybe I'm reading the whole thing wrong, but I don't think I am. The whole longing to belong here makes me feel kind of bad for him, it makes me think that maybe when he was kid he didn't really fit in anywhere and it just kind of stuck and maybe that's responsible for some of his more bitter moments. Then I snap out of it, like I'm becoming too desperate to humanize this guy. Maybe things are fine with these people, maybe it's just an early Sunday afternoon and everyone is sitting back, maybe on a Saturday night if Steve showed up he'd be sitting center rattling off stories about how he got drunk last weekend and told some cop to go fuck himself, and high fiving everyone. How do I know? I don't want to know.
We leave a little while later, 6 beers in and I'm just starting to get comfortable.
A few hours later dinner is ready. Nothing fancy, chicken and noodles in lemon pepper sauce, green beans. I'm sitting with a tray watching TV and then Steve goes and does that thing. Dinner is literally just off the stove. He is notified of this but chooses to finish his game of Spider Solitaire on the computer, which admittedly is addictive, but c'mon STeve, it's dinner. He meticulously picks his food and then places it in the microwave. I find this infuriating.
At first I wanted to believe that there was a story behind it; like when he was in the Army he always had lukewarm meals so he decided if he ever got home he would make sure all his meals were HOT. Then I remembered Steve never was in the Army, so I made up a story where his mother was never home for dinner and used to just heat him up leftover in the oven, and that's just how he got accustomed to eating dinner. It made him seem a little less like an alien. But that was bullshit. He makes a show of it, as if to say "You don't cook things hot enough for me" he pulls his plate out and then curses because he burns his hand on it. He turns the ceiling fan off even though the air is warm and thick from the oven because he insists that it cools off his food. He walks to the table and trips over his own sandle, the plate spills onto his foot and he curses and throws an angry fist at the wall denting the drywall in a what looks like a perfect circle. He curses some more and cleans up the mess. He takes some more food but this time he doesn't heat it up. He goes into his bedroom and returns to his game of Spider Solitaire. He comes out to inform us he wasn't mad or cursing at us, it was just that the food was hot.
Yeah no problem Steve. Relax man. Have a beer.