Act One: We fightAct Two: We avoidAct Three: We forgive
When we fight he doesn't answer his phone so it rings and rings and mine does too, vibrating until it moves clear across the desk and falls with a crack on the floor.
When we fight I walk with hard steps: Click, click, click even though I'm wearing flat shoes. I hold Fable in my arms like a shield as Hal asks Archer if he'd like to play Connect Four again for the twenty-seventh time.
I'm the favorite.
No, I am!
What if for the remainder of the afternoon, I could switch places with a woman not in a fight with her husband? Someone delicate and beautiful who could afford to hire a dozen men to nail in her mirrors for her. Someone who could snap her fingers and like magic, have it all.
And then I host a brief conversation with myself in my head that goes like this:
"Don't be an asshole.""But my husband doesn't GET me!""Ah. but the problem is that he gets you too much!""Don't be an asshole!"
GGC Presents: Woolf vs. Isaacson (in matching boxers) Live at the WTF Grand!
When we fight I reorganize Fable's drawers at lightning speed and when that's finished I get on my hands and knees to scrub the spots out of the wood floors and then I plan tomorrow's outfit, hang it on the inside of my closet above the shoes.
... and it would go on and on like this until our fingers were pruned and the dishes were all in pieces...
... never mind all that. Let's just cuddle.
Have you ever watched yourself on video? It's pretty disturbing. Kind of like hearing our own voice and being like "I don't sound like that, do I? Ew."
We look very different from the outside than we do from within, which is why if we all stuck 24/7 cameras on ourselves and then forced ourselves to watch said recording, we'd probably be slightly horrified by what we saw. But of course we would. We are human and we fail. Over and over we fail. Tempers flare, sometimes we lie, go back on our word... look away for two seconds and then WAAAAHHHH!!! Screaming baby flat on her face... We make mistakes and in the heat of certain moments, say things we do not mean.
Shouldn't then we expect others to do the same? Even those we trust to love and protect and take care of our children when we leave them in their care? Shouldn't we expect there will be moments that aren't 100% kosher?
That are, perhaps 98% kosher? On a bad day, 96%? Because lordy knows, I've raised my voice and bared my teeth at Archer in such a way, if I were my own nanny? I'd probably fire me. Because that was a seriously SCARY face.
Of course, how far is too far? And when is it appropriate to spy... on husbands or wives or significant others? On nannies or babysitters or whoever it is we trust to care for our children?
Me, personally? I've always kinda figured that if you can't trust your spouse? Your nanny? Your best friend? Find someone else. Hire a new nanny. Seek out new friendship.
Just because the technology is available? Does not mean we should always take advantage of it.
Behold, more on the subject, here:
1. Why leave your child(ren) with a person you are hesitant about?
2. Has trust gone the way of the Dodo?
1. I can think of few things better
2. Hal danced toward main street
5. Clad in tiny spotted-bow, Fable
So sorry, my love. It was me.
Archer picks up his racket, poised for play.
"I'm ready Daddy," Archer says and I sit down. My son's shrill voice clouded by a heated argument about "whether or not Tony Hawk invented vert" taking place behind me. The words of boys I've never met but know too well.
In high school I lead a double life. By day I was blonde and popular, the host and producer of our High School television show, organizer of Battle of the Bands, ASB commissioner, Homecoming Queen. I lived the southern California cliche - my first car a convertible Cabriolet with cow-print seat covers, my first job, a beach shack sandwich shop where I served sub-sandwiches to bleached-haired surfers clad in bikini top and cut-offs. I was an honor-student with a side-job writing angst-ridden poetry for a best-selling book series and even though I spent the majority of my mornings hosing down the chocolate-syrup spelling "SLUT" "WHORE" and yes, even, "DIE BITCH" off my driveway, I was the poster-child for lucky, normal, have-it-all teenager. I was THAT girl...
But it turned into something else. I became codependent on their phone calls - on being some kind of savior, an adolescent superhero who snuck out through her bedroom window to attend to the fallen. I was their beck and call girl, queen of the lost boys, an addict myself to the kind of attention they gave me in return for my care and sweet-nothing whispers.
Around them, I was confident, secure, felt like I was worth something. Like I belonged. That’s the thing about high school. Everyone feels misunderstood, like an outcast. Even girls like me.
I spent much of my teenage years with two faces, two wardrobes, two very separate groups of friends that only ever intermingled on accident.
After graduation, I started a new life rooted in old ways. The boys were men, now, but hardly. And I worshipped them, cooked for them, cleaned after them, shuttled them around, skate-spot to skate-spot, let them crash on my couch, in my bed, lent them money I knew I'd never get back, told them over and over that I loved them. Felt it. Believed it. Would have done anything for them and did for many years.
"I'm saving them," I thought. "I'm saving them all."
But even in my early twenties, I was too young and naive to understand what it meant to parade around the boulevards with badges of martyrdom like girl-scout patches on my denim jacket.
"Do you want me to smoke you out or not?"
"Then shut the fuck up!"
A lighter flicks on and several of the boys crowd around it. They inhale and exhale all at once, through the fence they recline against. The smoke swirls against my cheek, against Fable's stroller. I pull up the shade, push her as far away as I can while still hanging on, rocking her to sleep. Back and forth and back and...
... ... ...
One night a friend pulled up his sleeve to reveal my name carved with a razor into his arm. It was the first of the many wake-up calls I needed to climb out of my woman-hole and pursue a new kind of life.
Ten years I had spent combing the streets for bloodstains to follow home, offer up bandages and therapy, a warm bed, a warm body and for what? People don’t change unless they want to.
Just because I offered rafts and life-vests didn’t mean I was going to save anyone from drowning.
But these are my people!
These are NOT your people.
"You can't just carve people's names into your arm!"
I looked around the mildew-stained basement apartment, surrounded by razors and dirty spoons - empty bottles of pills and stashed like buried treasure under heaps of unwashed clothes.
What the hell was I doing there?
"I have to go now," I said.
Months later I would meet Hal and months after that I would become pregnant and months after that an unexpected visit would lead me to lock doors, screen calls, build a wall around my family, change my life, cut everyone off.
"I'm sorry but I can't be your mother anymore. That job has been filled indefinitely."
I had abandoned them just like many of their parents had done. Except unlike their parents, I wasn't their parent.
I tell Archer I love him a thousand times a day so that he knows. Because so many don't know.
“Did you see that, Mommy? I just hit the ball very far.”
I watch Archer play tennis against the chain-linked fence that separates us from them. I am tempted to turn around. To acknowledge their backs against mine, to take swigs from their bottles and mourn friends gone and years lost and love unrequited. Part of me will always want to hug them and help them and apologize for failing them, abandoning them without explanation.
But an even larger part of me wants to tell them to get lost, boys. I’m afraid of them and what they might offer my children.
For the first time since we arrived at the tennis courts, I turn around. I glare at them and sneer and judge and think terrible things. I want them away from my children. I want them to disappear with their safety-pinned backpacks and dirty hoodies and paper-bagged alcohol canisters and wounded limbs. I want them to Go. Away. Now.
They glare back at me, roll their eyes, and mumble something about me being a "dumb lady" while casually exhaling smoke in my face.
I say nothing, turn my back to them and face my son clutching his tennis racket, my husband rooting him on. I'm not one of them anymore.
And then I pray. I pray to whatever god will listen to keep my children as far away as possible from these boys. Because I've been there. And I came very close to never coming back.
1. Archer climbed into the truck,
in the very same park where five years ago, Hal pushed me in the swings
and we decided to be parents together.
About a month ago, I decided it was time to cut the cord. The day Fable turned nine-months old I suddenly felt the need to remove her from my breast, my body, and my bedroom. The feeling was overwhelming, like an instinct. It was time. Starting then I would slowly wean her, no longer put her to sleep in our bed, yes, even walk away from her from time to time, regardless of her screams of mamamamamamama! to pick her up. I was no longer enjoying being an extension of her. I wanted my body back, my space and perhaps more importantly, wanted her to learn how to sleep alone, entertain herself from time to time, and, yes, become more independent.
A far cry from the way I felt months (even weeks!) earlier when I had a hard time leaving the room without her on my hip. When all I wanted to do was be with her. As close to her as possible without swallowing her whole.
I figured these last few weeks would be difficult and they have been. Fable refuses her crib with flailing hysterics and although her willpower is impressive, I will NOT let her win and so began hours-long, sometimes even all-night bedtime prep that I am proud to say has never ended with Fable sleeping in our bed but continues to frequently end with Fable sleeping in her stroller after long walks around the living room in circles at 2am, and me scolding myself the entire time for allowing her to sleep in our bed in the first place.
"What was I thinking! I've created a monster!" I'd repeat, teeth clenched, fists around the stroller bar as I pushed and pushed and rocked and pushed and sang and is she sleeping yet? No? FUUUUUUCCCCCKKKK!!!!
It's my fault she won't sleep. It's my fault she can't be alone. It's my fault I can't leave her side. It's all she knows. I should have put her in her crib from the beginning. I coulda shoulda woulda...
Last night after rocking Fable for fifteen minutes at the foot of her crib I placed her softly down. She screamed of course, as she always does so I gave her my hand, sang to her. She went on screaming for what felt like hours until she finally stopped. Looked up at me and smiled. And within seconds, passed out, her hands tight around my wrist.
I kept my hand there for a while, afraid that by moving my hand I'd wake her up. Afraid that by moving my hand something would be lost in our separation. I went on singing until her grip loosened and finally let go.
And in that moment I realized that all these months of co-sleeping and baby-wearing and nursing my tits off was so worth it - even now- having to painfully detach from the habits we both formed, because no matter how little sleep I get for the next few weeks, months, even years, I'll be able to remind Fable, when she's older and wants nothing to do with me and we're screaming at each other through the DO NOT DISTURB sign on her bedroom door, that once upon a time she couldn't let me go.
And neither could I.
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