Splitting time between my still-warring parents seems to create a kind of split in me. Thinking I have to please and remain loyal to whichever parent I’m with at the time, I develop a chameleon-like ability to behave completely differently around each one. I am able to alter my personality, depending on what the situation requires - a talent I would perfect in later years.
Dad runs a much looser ship than mom; he allows me to watch TV all night long, doesn’t make me wear pajamas to bed, isn’t upset when I don’t flush, and serves chocolate ice cream for dinner, with an occasional cigar after the meal. There’s something cool but also disturbing about being with dad, who puts me on his lap in his Karmann Ghia, and lets me drive on the icy streets of Chicago. In summer, dad has me steer his sixty foot sailboat, where I’m part of a crew with his new girlfriend, Brandi, who is even more wobbly than dad. Hand on the tiller, I peer into the boat’s cockpit, and spot dad playing with Brandi’s feet, in broad daylight.
Billy Bowen is a college guy who races with dad, on dad’s boat. Dad never stops talking about him - “Billy’s so smart, Billy’s so funny, Billy’s such a good sailor.” I’ve never met Billy, but I hate him. I imagine him as a younger version of dad, handsome, with hair on his chest, drinking the beer dad drinks, and even wearing dad’s boat shoes, Topsiders.