Friday, October 25, 2013

Missed Moment

“Two bobs left, two bobs right, then one left, one right, one left, and then it starts all over again, but from right to left,” Jared explained.

I watched, dizzied as my little brother bobbed his head from side to side in perfect rhythm.
“And you're always telling me that it's my turn to move, when I wonder what could make the needle jump the groove,” Amiee sang to the beat.

Jared’s head danced while I waited for the right moment to join in, like a little girl watching for her cue to leap between whirling double-dutch jump ropes.

My head bobbed left twice, right twice, and then back to the right for a single bob, just as Jared had instructed. I was feeling pretty good about my chances, and went left.

For two bobs…

Jared laughed as I tried to correct and catch up to his easy going movements. It was too late; my head frenzied back and forth in a seizure-like loop as Aimee sang on.

“Acting steady always ready to defend your fears, what's the matter with the truth, did I offend your ears?”

“Kid, it’s not that hard,” Jared said.

“Maybe for you it isn’t, but my head has a mind of its own,” I replied in jesting defense
“Just follow me,” my brother said, ignoring my protest. His head began to bob.

Aimee ignored us both. “Now I could talk to you till I'm blue in the face, But we still would arrive at the very same place, with you running around and me out of the race…”

I followed Jared’s example, and he nodded with encouragement as my head bobbed for one complete, correct, and rhythmic cycle.

“You got it!”

I grinned, and the multitasking center in my brain flickered under the sudden load. My head threatened calamity with a feint to the left, but just then a synapse fired, sending my head to the right, back in sync with Jared’s.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around Seattle to carpet-cleaning appointments, rewinding the tape and playing the song over and over again, our heads bobbing in unison to the rhythm of Aimee’s counsel.

“You're like a sleepwalking man, it's a danger to wake you, even when it is apparent where your actions will take you,” Aimee sang.

"That's just what you are..."


Happy Birthday, Jared. I hope you know that I am no longer a sleepwalking man; that's just not who I am...anymore.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Soldiers In The Water

I’d swim through shit for my kids, just like Joe.

My eyes are cloudy again. I don’t cry as much as I used to, especially in public. I miss it sometimes, the naked rush of desperate grief that sent me so many times to my knees in the cereal aisle at the store, in between the stacks at the library, in the darkness of a movie theater, even in church. Grief and I have at long last come to terms; she is allowed to take control in quiet moments when we are alone in my closet, my car, or the shower, while I maintain my composure (for the most part) in public places.

I sit in the rec center hot tub and watch my youngest march off the high dive. He mimes a moment of confusion as his long walk down the short blue pier comes to a sudden end. He windmills his arms and legs in imitation of a cartoon character before making a splash. I smile and raise a thumbs up salute as he climbs out of the pool and looks my way for validation.

He walks on the verge of running on his was over to the ladder. The lifeguard ignores him in favor of monitoring the three chubby teenagers wrestling in the shallow end.

I sit in the hot water and try not to think about Jadin, Joe, and Jared.

A few jumps off the high dive later Solomon makes his way over to the tub.

“Dad, come play with me in the river,” he pleads.

I look across to the shallow play pool. It isn’t crowded, but that doesn’t mean that someone’s three-year-old hasn’t pooped in it. I don’t want to play; I want to sit and stew in the hot salt water, allowing the emotion to melt out of my pores rather than my eyes.

“Dad, come on, you promised,” my son reminds me.

I put on a smile and climb out of the tub. Hot water drips from my body, and I shudder in the sudden cold. Solomon jumps into the playpool and swims for the river. For him the water is clear, clean, and warm, but all I can picture is dark sludge, diapers, and band-aids.

Jadin, Joe, and Jared.

My feet are at the edge now. Solomon looks back, expecting me to be there, right behind him. He wants to play soldiers-in-the-water, a game where we take turns dragging each other against the current, like a soldier pulling his wounded comrade through gunfire.

“Dad..,” he says, his tone full of playful warning.

I suck it up and slip into the sludge head-first in a low-profile dive. I spin onto my back and kick my way underwater, towards my son.

An arm wraps around my chest as I break the surface. “I’ve gotcha, man, just stay with me!” Solomon gasps, the effort of pulling my large frame against the current already punishing his lungs.

I lay on my back, with my legs and arms stretched out to drag through the water. The ceiling high above passes by slowly.

“You’re gonna be okay,” my son assures me.

 I close my eyes to picture Joe and his son Jadin, and their bittersweet reunion.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Taking A Little Off The Top

"I've felt so tired ever since I got my brain tumor that I just enjoy sitting in my big chair and watching the world pass by."

The hair stylist's words settle over my chest like the heavy lead apron at a dentist's office. I sit on the waiting bench and dig deep for some perspective, my eyes exploring the scuffed wooden floor of the local barber and beauty shop.

The biblical Samson and I are polar opposites. His aversion to barbers gave him a supernatural strength, while for me a trip to the chair never fails to provide the same. My week had been a rough one, full of defeat and desperation to the point of dark thoughts and anger. I need to hold my head up again and face the world, and since losing a few ounces up top always seems to tip the scales, here I was.

I look up from the floor to watch the stylist apply small strips of tin foil covered in what looks like paper mache to her client’s long dark hair. She smiles through her troubles, and somehow my hair doesn’t feel so heavy anymore.

I turn and watch the barber work on the thinning hair of a man who is clearly no stranger to hard work in the sun. His tanned head pokes up through the light-colored drape like a leather whack-a-mole.
The door swings open, drawing my attention. Behind the swing walks a man wearing a thick canvas jacket, work-worn blue jeans, and boots that have never seen the inside an office building.

“Well, looky here, it’s the rich and famous,” the whack-a-mole declares.

“Says the dumb and poor,” counters the man in the canvas jacket as he closes the door. He turns to the coat rack and shrugs out of his jacket. I spot a company logo bordered with the words “We Know Dirt” in dark embroidered lettering on the back.

“You too good to wave to me nowadays?” asks The Mole, a tease in his tone.

“Waddya mean?” Canvas says, sitting down in a chair by the door.

“I’ve driven past you a bunch of times, honking my horn and waving, but you don’t wave back, you just look at me like I’m a bastard calf!”

“So that’s you driving all over the valley in that great big, shiny new truck and honking like an idiot?”

“Yep, that’s me,” The Mole admits.

“Shit, why buy a new horse when the old one’s still riding? ‘Course, you wake up one morning and the old one’s dead on the ground, and you’ve got yourself a problem,” Canvas chuckles.

“Is that your truck I’ve been seeing parked all day up near the old church in Wanship?” asks The Mole.

“Might be,” Canvas says cautiously.

“You got a girlfriend up that way or something?”

“You’re looking pretty thin on top there, old timer,” Canvas says, evading the question and then laughing at his crafty retaliation.

“You going shootin’ today?” asks The Mole.

“Naw, not unless I buy some lead. The other day I had a mind to go, but discovered that I’m outta ammo,” Canvas replies casually.

From there the conversation moves on to hunting, high school sports, and men with names like Shorty and Tiny.

By the time my butt hits the barber chair my face aches from laughing and my troubles, though not gone, are forgotten.

Samson should have had his hair cut in Kamas.