“You can’t do it,” Francis.”
“But... No, I can!”
I sit inconspicuously in the corner of the room while Francis and his mother and father enter a bit of a tiff.
By tiff, of course, I mean a whole lot of yelling. An extraordinary amount of domestic conflict, in fact. I have been in a tumultuous family situation myself with my fathers and two of my very dramatic siblings, but usually that devolved into roughhousing and displays of honor, not this argumentative squabbling.
“Listen, Francis,” his father begins. “You—”
“No, listen here,” Francis interrupts. “I’m sick and tired of you acting like I’m some black sheep. I make just as much money as you and that’s without getting into huge debt for eight years at med school. I’m not going to suddenly become some poor loser just because I take a few weeks off.”
His mother scoffs. “What do you mean, ‘take off?’ Honey, we love you very much, but you don’t even have a real job. How are you going to take off from something you don’t have?”
“I have a Wikipedia page, you know.”
“And do your wikipedias pay the bills?”
“When the hell have I ever not paid the bills? I have so much in savings that I could take a year off no sweat, thanks to living with you. I’m so confused by all this.”
His father shakes his head. “If only you had a real job, maybe—”
“STREAMING IS A REAL JOB!”
When his parents don’t respond, Francis continues. “I love you very much, Mom and Dad. But you’re putting a stranglehold on my life that I can’t deal with.”
“You can’t be serious...”
“I already had to deal with Julie tonight and had an hour-long talk with her to tell her about what’s going on. So I’ve already had a lot of shit thrown at me and nothing you can say is going to be any worse than what she dealt. Sorry, but you two just aren’t Julie Rafati enough.”
The more I hear of her, the more frightened I become...
At this comment, Francis’s father seems absolutely flabbergasted. “You’re saying...”
“Julie herself approves of your little adventure?”
“Well, ‘approve’ isn’t exactly the right word, but she didn’t murder me, and while she may not speak to me for the rest of the year, Delta is joining us just like we asked.”
“Well, if Julie says it’s okay, it can’t be TOO bad,” his mother says. “She’s got a good head on her shoulders about this sort of stuff.”
“You’re trusting Julie’s word over mine... You know, if you want Julie and Delta as your daughters, you should adopt them!”
“I don’t like this new tone of voice you’re raising with us, young mister,” his mother says as if Francis is an adolescent boy. “We’ll have you know we did everything we could for Delta when her parents kicked her out. And we’ve helped Julie since she moved to San Fransisco. We aren’t the bad guys here, as much as our children think we are.”
“Hey now, I’m not nearly as bad as you-know-who,” Francis says. “I mean, not that I’m bad. I’m doing just fine.”
“We don’t use that name in our house,” says Francis’s father.
“I didn’t use her name!”
“I’m not going to end up like her,” he tells his parents with heavy determination. “That’s out of the question.”
There is a lot more aguing going on in the Bacall family, but I begin to tune most of it out. The conversation goes around in circles with no side relenting on the idea that they are the morally superior one. It’s a bit exhausting, and worst of all, I don’t think this kind of debate is at all unusual for the household. For as loud and impassioned it is, it feels like just another day for the three of them.
It’s too much for me.
Francis’s father continues to refer to me as if I am not in the room, calling me a suspicious pink haired deviant and a sign of how far Francis could fall if he continues on his silly adventures across cyberpace meeting strange men and bringing them home. He does not seem to judge the blossoming relationship that Francis and myself—our newly forged friendship will be sung in the tale of the most powerful friendships to have ever friended—but he does seem excessively concerned for the well-being of his son. I believe sons should always be protected, but to the extent that they cnanot go on adventures? That is unthinkable.
Eventually, the debate ends with the acceptance that Francis, Delta, and I will indeed be beginning our Amtrak Adventure starting tomorrow. The two parents unceremoniously go to bed, and the father even says he won’t be awake in time to see him go.
It’s confusing, but I try not to dwell on it too much. There is a lot on Earth I do not understand, and it will take a very long time for me to come to that point. If I reach S-Rank too quickly and ascend above everyone else, I may never spend enough time to figure out what life on Earth is really like. So part of me almost wishes my journeys here would be a lot longer than they look to be.
After everything, Francis and I head back into his bedroom. Without saying anything to me, he gets to work. In a huff, he pulls out a large suitcase and begins packing clothes and video games and computers as if he is going to leave this house forever.
“What is it you are doing?” I ask.
“I’m packing for our trip,” he tells me. “This is everything I’m gonna need for a few weeks around the country.”
“All of that?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, we aren’t...”
“You surely can’t take all of that,” I say. “That’s an incredible load that will prove extremely inconvenient for you. Have you ever travelled for long periods of time before?”
“Yeah, when I was doing my big college trip in high school, my parents and I went to the Northeast... in our car...”
“Cars are like carriages,” I say. “They are a misleading way to overestimate the amount of items you will need on any given adventure. You don’t need a suitcase that large. In fact, I’m not sure my inventory slot could even hold something so big.”
“Inventory slot... Oh, wait a minute, if I packed a smaller suitcase, couldn’t you just store it in your inventory? Don’t you have three cards for that?”
“That’s a good idea,” I say, “but two of those slots are open for weapons. I need to pull those out at a moment’s notice. The third is—Oh, in The Goddess’s name, I completely forgot.”
“I have a large back filled with monster loot and other items simply sitting in my inventory. It’s from all the way back on my last day on Mystix.”
“Yes. Perhaps... Well, maybe that is something worth investigating later on, eh?”
“Yeah, let’s deal with that tomorrow. For now, I’ll try and pack only the essentials. For you and me both. One small suitcase, and maybe a backpack too.”
“That sounds a lot more reasonable.”
Francis sighs. “I wish my parents understood me... My fans on my stream are going to understand, I’m sure. But them...”
“They are very strict parents.”
“They just want the best for me,” he says. “But they think you and I are... Well, they think I’m going to get hurt, and so they’re overreacting a bunch about it.”
“Perhaps, Francis Bacall, you use your streaming fans as a surrogate for the accepting parents you wish you had,” I say. “It seems obvious to me that with your sister’s death and your parents’s doting attitude and your best friend concealing a pregnancy plan from you, the anonymous denizens of the internet are the safest people for you right now.”
“....Gosh, Eryk. That hits really hard. What the hell?”
“Wait. ‘Sister’s death?’ My sister isn’t dead.”
“Oh, from the way you discussed her, I just assumed...”
“No way. Taylor’s alive and kicking. And, unfortunately, you’re probably going to meet her during our adventure. She ran away from home after she got pregnant at fifteen and it turned into this huge ordeal and now... Well, it’s a story for another time. A really stupid story.”
“I’d like to hear it.”
“And I’d like to see all that monster loot,” Francis says. “For now, we need to finish packing and then we can go to sleep.”
The night draws to a close, and I’m left wondering just what it is that makes my dear friend Francis tick.