In the evening she reads brief entries about various video games out loud to him as he sits next to her on his bed.
Things my son said to me over the weekend:
You’re my best friend dad.
What was your favorite part of day?
Dad, you’re a bear!
I know that song.
Sing a spooky George.
To which I said, no, how about a different spooky song.
How about, awoooooo, werewolves of London. Awooooooo!
What that one called?
Werewolves of London. Do you want to hear it?
I looked for it on my phone and then played it. We sang the awooooo parts together. When it was over he said, that cool.
May 5, 2015
The afternoon spent walking with him. Holding hands. Looking at cactuses in the greenhouses. Asking me what the plants are called. Laughing at the one called, “baby toes.” Carrying him on my shoulders looking at lilies and lettuce. The large fish in the lagoon circling slow beneath and then rising face first to break the surface with open slow mouths searching for human food handouts. He leans down close to the water to look. Waves. Leans against me. Balancing on rocks and platforms. Puzzles in the library. Sadness that the outdoor model train garden isn’t open yet.
March 3, 2016
He can’t sleep. His ear hurts. His body rages. He kicks and jerks. Punches and rolls. Eleven at night. I lay on my side. His feet press into my back. He cries. He shouts. Refuses to calm down. At first she is strict. Her voice stern. Go to sleep. I repeat. You need to relax your body. Just try to sleep.
No. He yells.
We doze. We must. We drift off. My stomach knots. A fist of anxiety wedged. Thick. This is when I normally lose control. The wave of panic washing over me. Covering my shoulders. Fogging my head in despair. Loosening my bowels. But it doesn’t come. I breathe into my nervous stomach. Slow breaths. Allow myself to feel this nervous fist. This anxious twisting. Allow myself to feel it and be tired. To feel it. To be tired. To drift. To be prodded and kicked by my raging son.
Our frustration turns to sympathy. She tries to soothe him. Rubs his back. Still he cries. Three hours pass. Breathing. The words I am awesome appear in my brain unbidden. My stomach and anxiety don’t worsen. It doesn’t let up, but the balance never tips. Never lose control. She says I should just go downstairs to sleep. One of us should sleep. He wails, no. But I go and lay down. The guest bed. Dark. Quiet outside. The street light through these gauze curtains. A drink of water. A lecture in one headphoned ear. Recomfort myself. Allow myself that anxiety. That nervous bundle. Breathe into it and fall asleep.
April 4, 2016
A dream in which the big toe on my right foot was coming apart. A large open wound, viewing the bone. No blood. Just aged flesh. A dull ache. Hopping on my left foot trying to keep the right toe from disintegrating. In my mind, heading towards a doctor.
April 4, 2016
We blew bubbles outside in the wind. Warm and wind. He chased them through the yard. Climbing onto the chain link fence. Trying to catch them. Climbing onto the air conditioner and jumping off. We played soccer tag. If we got hit by the ball we were frozen. Trapped in jail. Only to be set free if we were hit again by the ball. This time the ball was electric of fireball powers unleashed by Lego ninjas. He ran from me. From the back yard. In a long circle around the front of the house and back. Climbing the small tree by the garage.
We did cartwheels. Me remembering, then trying to teach him how. Putting his hands in position on the ground and then trying to help him kick his legs up and over him and back down to the ground. I did it, he yelled. Now I can do cartwheels!
This morning he zipped his jacket by himself for the first time. Smiling.
April 4, 2016
Over the weekend.
Are monster trucks real?
What? Who drives them?
I don’t know. People.
People like Erich?
Yeah. Cuz Erich is a cool dude.
He hoarsely says, daddy, and I wake up prepared to get him a glass of water, to give him a kiss, to tell him he can fix his blankets himself. I open his door and say, what is it? He points to a large dark puddle at the top of his bed. Oh.
12.45 in the morning. Pulling his shirt over his head, trying to keep the vomit from getting on his body.
He sits in the bath tub as I wash the small pieces from his hair. He shivers in the night while I dry him off. Get him new pajamas.
Waking up my partner, still asleep in our bed. Explaining what has happened.
We are only half awake.
Trying not to throw up myself as I clean the vomit from his sheet, rinsing it down the utility sink in the basement. I open a bottle of pine cleaner and breathe it in to clear my gag reflex.
Baking soda and salt poured over his vomit puddled mattress in a haze of sleep conscious reasoning.
Sitting on the floor of our room, he weakly says, yay, now I don’t have to go to school tomorrow.
Dragging the mattress to the basement for further cleaning.
The lamplight in our room as he sits in our bed watching as we attempt to clean.
The washing machine running. His sheets, his clothes, the hot water cycle.
Open the window in our room, in his room. A fan blowing the night into our room, a fan blowing the sour acid smell out into the night in his room.
Hugging him and saying I’m sorry you’re feeling sick, that stinks.
My partner, his mother, laying awake in the bed in the guest room downstairs.
A scented candle burning in the night as I listen to him falling asleep next to me in our bed.
In the south of New Jersey.
We sit in the middle seat of this large car. We are driving to dinner. Having just gotten the tour of my partner’s childhood town. Her elementary school and junior and high schools. her house. The small downtown. She sits in the front passenger seat talking with her mom about the town as her mom drives.
Joking with my son I say, check this out. I hold my left hand in front of me, palm facing my chest. I fold my pointer finger at the knuckle. With my right hand I bend my thumb at the knuckle and fit it above my left pointer finger, knuckle to knuckle. My right pointer and index finger folded to cover the gap between left pointer and right thumb. This action is completed in half a second. A singular fluid motion.
I pretend to strain. Showing it on my face and struggling, shaking my hands in fake effort. Grunting a little. Then for a flash of a second I slide my thumb away from finger and return it.
His eyes are wide. His mouth is open. His whole face alive with wonder.
How did you do that? He asks. His total belief in my corny old man trick. I am filled with joy. My heart is light and I am laughing.
Do it again! He says. I repeat the trick. Mom, look. Watch what dad does. I show them both and then spend the rest of the evening showing him how to do the trick and repeating it over and over.
– written April 13, 2018.
It is cold out. Chill wind. We are both dressed insufficiently for this drop in temperature now that the sun has disappeared behind houses and apartment buildings. A pale glow in the horizon as he rides his skateboard on the tennis court. Bending his legs to crouch beneath the volleyball net as he glides under. He wears a helmet and elbow pads and knee pads. A sweatshirt.
He coasts. He pushes. He practices turning. Steering between objects. Practices falling. Feeling his pain. Continuing with his skating.
A bit later I sit on a skateboard in the grass and watch as he climbs up a slide and slides down again. Goes hand over hand on monkey bars. Runs around the playground. Climbs up the small climbing wall. Climbs back down. Twists on a swing. There I join him and we swing. He practices pumping his legs and leaning back.
November evening. Sometime the weekend after thanksgiving.
– Written December 5, 2017
Heeeeeyyyyy. I made a new zine. That’s two within the span of two years. I am burning it up! This is the first non-Flotation Device zine I’ve made in a long time. As far as solo efforts go. I think the last one was when I was in library school and made a zine for a project. That was probably around 2005 or 2006. I went back and forth about publishing this as Flotation Device 15. But I finally decided that it would be best to be its own thing. It felt sufficiently distinct.
The jist of it is that I use a format of you are… to quickly write down any thoughts, or phrases, or sentences, or events, that I think, come across, or experience. They don’t really fit anywhere else, but they add up to kind of a slow motion diary / journal thing. And it is a manageable way to collect the small things.
If you are interested you can get a copy over at thee ye olde etsee storee. Or just get in touch somehow.
June 7, 2017
As we eat dinner. He breaks out into uncontainable dance party. Now we’re gonna get funky funky funky! he yells. Then manically runs through half remembered segments of the Cha Cha Slide. Reverse reverse! Charlie Brown. Everybody clap your hands! Dancing from one corner of the front room to the other. Up on the couch. Up on the chair. Singing. And a non-stop run of words emanate from his mouth.
He breakdances. A few moves that he learned in his dance class at school. Drops to a pose. A peace sign with fingers. Lays on the floor and laughs. Then jumps up to begin again.
Early summer. Sunlight evening through windows. 95 degrees still. he in his Red Stars jersey from the game earlier. Us, we, his parents laugh from this unexpected turn of dinner events.
Washing dishes. Water across plates. Food remnants in the trap. Water slow to drain.
He says he wants to play the piano. They walk through the kitchen from family to living room. Pass behind me. A sound. A felt sense.
Sponge and brush and soap. Tupperwares. Silverware. The cut on my thumb stinging in the water.
The notes from the piano. Expecting crash and bang. A cacophony of fingers slamming keys. I stop. Turn off the water. The notes are quiet. Searching. Loud, then soft. Legato continuous. He finds a melody. Repeats it. One hand accompanies the other. Exploring. Jumping octaves. Shifting dynamics. The sound of listening. He is paying attention to what he is doing.
I dry my hands with a towel. Lean against the wall. Hidden, so he doesn’t see me. So I don’t distract him. The song continues for a few minutes.
Joy. Emotion rushes through my head. My face. I smile. Enjoying this moment.
Him playing music.