Thursday, July 19, 2012

There Are Days Where I Wish I Smoked


There are days where I wish I smoked.  Days where I’d like to just lean back in my seat at work, light one up and watch the smoke curl up towards the fluorescent lights on the unbroken expanse of white ceiling.  Just stare at all those acres of tiles and lights and wonder about their mathematical predictability.  Perhaps a combination of the biological nicotine boost and the social marker of disengagement that the clink of a lighter would give me would suffice.  There’s something about the magical path that a fine curl of smoke produces; its like watching fish in an aquarium with the exception that you don’t feel sorry for smoke like you do for the fish.

Quiet introspection that’s embraced by a process both edifying and destroying me at the same time.  Smoke.  Maybe we both need it.  I listened last night as my wife fought to quell the obsessive-compulsive behaviors of Bethany.  She went from tired and frustrated to assertive and demanding; dwelled there for a brief moment and moved on to belligerent, condemning, and dangerous.  It made my skin crawl to hear her scream words like this, words I didn’t even know she had in her vocabulary.  She burst into tears, sobbing that she “just can’t do this anymore”.  I did nothing.  I didn’t move a muscle.  Didn’t come to her aid, didn’t offer words of support, didn’t pray.  Were I a smoker, I’d have lit one up at this juncture, leaned back and watched the smoke curl upwards.

I don’t know what to do either, hell – I’ve been in this same spot plenty of times myself.  Yelled and threatened to do things that I knew I’d never do, just needed to let the words fly.  Bethany hears none of the threats, they mean nothing to her anyways; in fact, she listens to the tone of voice and when you’re done ranting, she laughs.  She won.  You blinked first.

So many nights are spent holding her during seizures.  So much time spent with drool running down your arms as she pathetically roots around her face with her finger, looking for some part of it that doesn’t feel weird.  Perfect time to light up.  Hold her hands while balancing a Camel between my lips.  Later, during the manic sessions as she crashes around her room and I lay downstairs listening, late into the night – I could watch the glowing end in the dark.  I could take that amber glow and write words in the air, imaginary messages to friends, asking them about their summer plans.  I always liked the photo of Jackson Pollock working on a large canvass in his studio, paint bucket in one hand, brush drooling colors in the other hand, cigarette hanging on his lower lip.  He was a brilliant idiot, as am I.  A tired, brilliant, idiot.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dinner in the Bathroom


I ate dinner in the bathroom tonight.  Its not that I wanted to eat dinner in there, it’s that I had to eat dinner in there.  Bethany’s suffocatingly obsessive mood occasionally forces me to have to hide from her and the bathroom is the only room in the house with a table, a chair and a lock.  Tonight, she wanted what was on my plate and nothing else would do, her obsession with eating my food was nearly manic.  I could have put Styrofoam packing peanuts on my plate and she’d have asked for more.

I sat there on the stool, it’s a nice German toilet; wall mounted with a concealed tank for easy cleaning (a plus if you have inattentive boys at home).  All in all, a pretty fancy item for an 1870’s farmhouse but since where the crapper now stands, so once was located the kitchen, I figured “upscale” was proper.  I’m told it’s the exact spot where “Grandma Bowmaster” once had the cookie crock located.  I think the stool, or tonight’s dinner chair is a perfect compliment to the table I’m seated at.  That table, which doubles for the bathroom sink is fine Italian marble that nicely compliments the French bleu cheese on my salad.  As I enjoy the trappings of my little tiled vault, I listen to her wail and crash against the door.  Clearly the bleu cheese is a “must have”.  The flavor of the tomatoes and the olive oil and vinegar is amazing.  I wish for a candle to complete the setting.  Never saw this kind of arrangement in any Restoration Hardware vignette…

She continues to crash against the door, her screaming growing with each passing moment.  I laugh and move on to the broccoli without remorse, I’ve earned this dinner.  I earned it while thanking Jesus for a nice evening.  Its not that he didn’t provide one, mind you; Bethany was swimming in the pool with the sunlight surrounding her.  Laughing, screaming even as she turned somersaults, did her swimming motion, splashed water and had a 10-minute run of “normal living.”  I was nearly moved to tears at the beauty of her antics.  I thought “thank you Lord for this time of joy, for Bethany being fully engaged in an activity that reminds the both of us that she’s a 16 year old girl”.  I had planned on running that joy into a full-blown “thank-you” moment where I thank Him for everything from fuzzy puppies on one hand, to my less than fuzzy puppy boss on the other hand.  Somewhere between the fuzzies her antics and frantic shouting stopped.  The prayer turned from a thanksgiving statement of “oh Jesus, yes” to an intercessory oh God, no!”  I never did make it to the closing statement of “amen”.

Cleaning a turd out a pool is a delicate process and all those years of playing the game “Operation” at the Westveld’s house on 18th street, now paid off.  In the game if you take the “funny bone” out with the tweezers and touch the exposed metal edge of the “incision”, the buzzer buzzes, the red light goes on and the patient dies.  It’s just like that with a pool turd.  Touch the side of it with the pool strainer and the buzzer goes off and in your heart you die a little.  Tonight’s dinner was earned my means of skillful straining, suctioning and sanitizing.  I, the “sturgeon surgeon”, winner of tonight’s game of “Operation” earned the right to eat alone in the locked bathroom.

I cleaned my plate, thanked Jesus successfully and completely, stood and went to unlock the door.  She was furious with me but I doubt she knew why.  She stomped past, clicked the light switch “off” and stomped back out of the room. 

I suppose that all across America, families like mine enjoy a safe dinner in the bathroom.  They take turns sitting on the toilet in a room that was once a kitchen.  I’m sure that amongst the soaps, body lotions, toothpastes and deodorants of their lives, an occasional dinner napkin and fork find a brief respite while their owners use the spoon to chase green peas around their plates, which they then shovel into their thankful mouths.  I’m sure that daughters everywhere crash against the locked doors with all 110 pounds of their adolescent, manic, fury while from the safety of the inner room a satisfied-for-the-moment parent enjoys the mingled aromas of bleu cheese and pool chlorine. 

I’m certain of this.