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chuck young — a dad in the life

A Dad in the Life

by Chuck Young

My two year old son is crying in his room pretty hard. I don’t know what time it is. It’s dark. He seems to be struggling. The crying is usual. The struggling is not. He makes his way into our room. I heave him up into bed and tuck him between my wife and I. I stroke his head and tell him that it’s okay. That he’s with us. We’re here. He’s still sort of asleep anyway. He usually comes into our bed at night. He’s been crying at night. We think he’s having nightmares. This one must’ve been a bad one.

I wake up 5-10 times for the rest of the morning in various states of discomfort due to the 30 pounds of intrusion that constantly chooses weird shapes for its body to be in.

Finally get up with him at about 6:30am, notice that he had dragged his bed comforter with him into my room and go downstairs. He’s really cool in the morning. Like, really sweet and funny. I enjoy him but I’m tired.

He wants to eat. I rattle off some options and we decide on a Chewy. I get him the granola bar and turn the TV on for him. I lie on the couch with a blanket and my daughter’s iPod and check my internets.

I eat a bowl of Lucky Charms with no milk.

Time goes by somehow. We’re both pretty occupied/self-sufficient. We’re just two bros hanging.

My seven year old daughter gets up around 8:00am, comes downstairs, makes herself a bowl of oatmeal and then returns to her room. We talk briefly. “What’s up?” “I’m hungry.” “Nice.”

My son says he wants to eat again. I rattle off some options and we land on oatmeal. I go into the kitchen and make the oatmeal. When I come back in the living room, he’s wailing on his crotch with a play-kitchen utensil. I take his diaper off of him because I remember I haven’t yet. I make him take his oatmeal upstairs because he’ll make a mess. He goes upstairs, I turn his TV on for him and put a show on On Demand and go back downstairs.

I go On Demand myself and watch the beginning of Reign Over Me as I had caught the end of it the other night. I had been lying in bed with my son feeling emotional watching someone talk about the death of their children instead of, like, realizing my child was right in front of me to be enjoyed. At one point I had gotten frustrated with him because he was kicking me in my face during an affecting scene. Said something like, “Jesus Christ, Travis.” And then he cried and then I felt bad. I had realized for the millionth time how shitty of a person I am because of my detachment and disposition towards being moved by art and not by real life. I then had cuddled him a bit until he had falled asleep.

Feel surprised while watching the beginning of the movie that it’s really Don Cheadle’s character’s story and not Sandler’s character’s.

Time somehow goes by.

I hear my son upstairs and remember that I never put a diaper on him. Think, “shit.” Grab one and run upstairs. Ask him if he’s pissed anywhere. Doesn’t seem like he has. Put a diaper on him. See that his TV has just been on the On Demand menu for a while. He says he wants to watch Wibbly Pig. His remote is not there so it must be in his sister’s room. Go to my daughter’s room and ask about the remote. She looks in the blankets at the foot of her bed and reaches in the crack where the mattress doesn’t reach the bed. She can’t find it. I’m losing my patience as I want to be watching that movie. And my son will probably freak out soon about the lack of Wibbly Pig.

My wife chimes in from bed that she knows where the remote is. That it’s by her TV. But she doesn’t know what she’s talking about because I’ve been awake for time that she has not.

I tell my daughter to find it and then put Wibbly Pig on for her bro and go back downstairs.

Time goes by, I remember to check on things and head back upstairs. Wibbly Pig is still not on. I go back to my daughter’s room which is a mess and ask her why she’s not looking for the remote. And tell her that she should’ve been looking this whole time. She’s on the floor doing something with her shoes. She says she can’t find it. I go to her bed and look at the space between the mattress and the bed where she had seemed convinced the remote should’ve been. I see it immediately and ask her why she couldn’t see it. And she says that she couldn’t feel it. And I say, “no SEE it.” That I just looked and SAW it. She doesn’t have an answer. I leave the room, turn on Wibbly Pig and then go back and tell her to stop being so helpless. I feel bad for saying this while walking down the stairs. Like, almost immediately. I’ve been thinking more about what I say that could give complexes. And what kids might take and internalize as comments on their person or their character, even when they are just throwaway sentences from specific incidents. Like, my daughter probably now defines herself as helpless and will fight for the rest of her life to prove to me that she’s not (though she’ll most likely think she’s proving it to others). Ugh. Therapy-thoughts.

My wife is downstairs and is complaining about Reign Over Me. But kind of in a fun way. I watch a little bit more until it gets to the point where I had picked it up from that other night. I shut it off and she turns on some weird morning show about magnets and refrigerators. She’s drinking a tea.

I make myself a tea and say, “I’m going to drink this tea on the porch.” This is when my wife runs into the dining room, grabs the book she knows I am going to grab and flings it across the room. Again, it’s kind of in a fun way. I say, “you seaward” in a fun way because it’s one of my favorite Arrested Development jokes.

I pick up the book and head out onto the porch to drink my tea and read. I’m reading a book called, Fury by Koren Zailckas. It’s a memoir about family and anger and Koren is a woman that went to a neighboring high school around the time I was in high school. It’s a follow-up to her memoir, Smashed. I recognize myself in both of these works even though they rely heavily on a girl’s perspective.

My son comes outside saying “outside” and sits with me. I tell him to go and shut the door so the gross bugs don’t get in the house. He does and grabs a couple stuffed toys on his way (a monkey and a snowman). He sits with me and wants to role-play with them. He calls the snowman “No Nose” which is what he calls this monster snowman from a Scooby Doo DVD that he watches. I tell him that we’re not talking about No Nose anymore, that this is just a nice snowman possibly called Frosty. I do this as the monkey, in a cartoon-monkey voice. He has told us that his bad dreams are about No Nose. No nose takes his head off in the show and causes hell. We role-play for a little bit but I’d rather be reading because that shit gets boring especially because all he wants to do is beat the hell out of the monkey with the snow man. He’s just smashing them together.

I stop role-playing and go back to reading. He looks at my book. I tell him to go inside and get the Goon Book. So that he can look at that while I read. Like we could both just be hanging reading books. He’s not down.

My wife comes out and tells me that she’s going to go to some free fun day out in Worcester. She’s going to take Travie. This makes me feel good. I’m now nominated, by process of default, to bring my daughter to the birthday party she’s going to today. Sounds pretty good. My wife tells me that I can drop my daughter off at the party and then get stuff done around the house. I say I did want to mow the lawn and bring stuff back to my parents’ house. She says, “Yeah. You could do other stuff too.” Seems reasonable. I think about and plan on hitting my one-hitter a couple of times before doing the lawn work.

I ask my wife if she and my daughter are going to go shopping together to buy the birthday present. She says yes and that she needs money.

My daughter comes outside looking fly and we all respond appropriately to let her know. By whooping and, like, going, “look at her.” Nice.

I go inside and get thirty dollars from my wallet after saying something to the effect of, “you don’t know where my wallet is?” to my wife. Passive-aggressive shit but in sort of a fun way. Like, it’s grade school hate-flirting still somehow.

I give her the money and then she needs me to grab her keys and her purse. I find her purse but her keys aren’t on the key rack. I go back on the porch and say, “here’s your purse; couldn’t find your keys.” She’s like, “they’re hanging…” I interrupt with, “no.” She says something about me not letting her finish. I think to myself or say, “they’re not where they’re supposed to be that’s all I know and that’s all I’m willing to do.” Or something. Meaning I’m not going to search high and low for things. She walks in and gets them off the coat/bag rack.

My wife and daughter get in the car. My son goes down with them because he thinks we’re all going somewhere. He’s going, “c’mon, gaga. c’mon.” (He calls me Gaga) I tell him that we’re not going that just Sister and Mama are going. He starts getting upset. I start calling him. My wife says something like, “make it fun for him. maybe you can stop reading your book and do something with him.” She says this all snotty. I mouth, “shut the fuck up.” She flips me off. I’m relieved. Sometimes that kind of shit makes her fly off the handle and puts me in a world of shit. It’s still kind of, like, fun banter somehow.

I tell my son that we’ll go for a walk. I’ll push him in his little toy car. He feels good about it. Our Toyota Corolla backs out of the driveway with its taillight still smashed in from the early morning a couple months ago where I backed into a truck trying to get out of a late night breakfast joint. Was I drunk as shit and was my wife crying because I wouldn’t let her eat her pancakes inside because she ordered them after we had already eaten? I don’t want to say.

My son and I go inside so I can change out of the shitty mesh shorts and white T I’m in and to also throw some shorts on him and maybe coax some shoes onto his feet. I put on a shirt with a picture of animals on it that’s designed in such a way that it looks like you’re watching a 3D movie without the glasses on. I complement that with a pair of 4 year old diesel jeans that I have very recently cut off into shorts. I throw some mesh shorts on my dude and take his shoes with us.

We go back outside and he goes on his toy car and we head out towards the park. I walk streets that I’ve walked thousands of different times in various different stages of my life and feel more aware of it now for some reason. I walk routes that I used to walk daily and am somewhat strangled with nostalgia. Think about what it would be like if my son was older so I could talk some of this out. If I’d even be able to do it justice. Think of my father and of stuff he might’ve said in the same vain and what I might’ve thought of it all. Small town bullshit probably. Something about humans taking everything for granted because we can’t really grasp that things change. That time is somewhat singular: what our world is now is how it always will be but with a vague understanding of the past. Not sure. Think, “this small town of churches and bars.” Think, “once upon a time” in an ironic way, probably. Think about posting it on the internet saying it’s the beginning of something that I haven’t written yet. At another point later think, “my butt probably makes people uncomfortable.” Think about which of those is a tumblr post or a status update. End up going with the butt one.

I let my son dictate a little bit where we’re going to go but then head back towards the house. He seems fine with it. When we get home, I make a sandwich and chips. He shows an interest in my sandwich so we share. We watch Sanjay and Craig. A friend of a friend created it/produces it and it’s good.

My wife and daughter come home and show me the presents they picked up. I act encouragingly/excited by them. I give my daughter the rundown as to how it’s going to go down at the party since I’ve been thinking about what she’s going to do when I leave. I want to make it the least stressful as I can for her to navigate on her own. I tell her she’ll put on her bathing suit, put her clothes on over the bathing suit, take underwear in a bag, take her clothes off when she swims, dry off and then put the underwear on and her clothes back on when she’s done. She doesn’t really get it. She’s talking about the bouncy house. We re-adjust the plan a bit, factoring in some flexibility. The main goal is to tell her that the underwear is for when she’s done with the pool for good. She gets it.

She and my wife go upstairs to get ready. I’m still watching TV with my dude. Some time passes.

They come back downstairs and my wife explains to me how to get to the house. It’s in our small town but she insists on writing out directions. It is on a street I’ve never heard of but the directions are like, “go down that street you’ve been on a million times, go straight into that new development, take a left.” My wife thinks I’m terrible with directions. And she might also think I’m dumb as shit. She reminds my daughter to take the directions when we leave.

My wife changes my son out of the utilitarian gear I put on in order to throw something more suited for display. She goes in the kitchen to pack food for their fun day and then waits for her friend to get to the house because they’re going together. I’m, most likely, still watching TV with my son and now my daughter.

Eventually the friend shows up and we all go outside. I take the car seat out of my car and bring it to the other car. My daughter now wants to go to wherever they’re going. I tell her that she’ll miss the party if she does. She hangs around the car. My son is seemingly excited. They get all packed up a ready to roll. My wife is in the driver’s seat of the friend’s car and my daughter is leaning into the window. I tell my daughter to come on inside. We say our goodbyes. They drive off and we go in.

I ask my daughter if she wants something to eat. She doesn’t. She goes upstairs to her room. I watch TV. She then comes downstairs and asks if she can eat oatmeal. I tell her that that’s cool. She makes it and eats it. I keep my eye on the time because the party is at one and it’s getting close.

When it’s about 5 of, I call my daughter down, we gather all of her shit and head out to the car. I probably ask her if she’s stoked. She probably tells me she is. She has the directions and wants to read them to me as we drive. We drive to the street that I know. While on that street, I get emotional because of nostalgia while listening to that newer song by the latest American Idol. A couple of my best friends growing up had lived on this street and a vague blurred amalgam of memory hits me cinematically hard. I tell my daughter about these friends. One of which has fucked himself up pretty hard on drugs in the past bunch of years. We continue onto the new development streets. I say “new” but they’re probably, like, 10 -15 years old. I take the one fucking left and get to the house.

My daughter says she’s shy. We talk about who might be there: kids from her class or gymnastics etc while walking across a nicely manicured lawn. The house is new (obviously) and big and nice. We follow people to the backyard. My daughter says she knows the girl’s mom because she had been to her class before.

We walk into the backyard/party. The mom greets us. She thinks my daughter is Jessica for a second and then realizes it’s Isabelle. She introduces herself and shakes my hand. She then turns her attention to other arriving guests. I sneak by her and go to a safe spot away from others. I put the bags of shit down. A kid or two says hi to my daughter. They are in a bouncy house. The yard is real nice. If I see the dad I’ll tell him that he’s got a “real great setup.” There’s a deck/patio/swingset/above-ground pool/grass. I tell my daughter to hit the bouncy house. She wants to put her clothes on because everyone else has clothes on. I point out other girls who are wearing their bathing suits under their clothes. She wants to fit in, I guess. I convince her to keep her bathing suit on. She goes into the jumpy house and almost immediately they all get out to go to the pool. I feel like telling her an I told you so but I’m an adult and she’s a child. They climb in the pool.

I stand there awkwardly for a bit trying to plan my escape. I don’t know how to maneuver these things yet. If it’s expected that the parents will leave or if I’m supposed to hang around. My daughter doesn’t want me there. I’m supposed to ask the mom when I should come back to pick her up because the invite didn’t have a closing time on it but once she ducks out somewhere I slip out unseen. I wave to my daughter on the way out.

Feel anxiety when I get to the car picturing something shitty happening to my daughter. Realizing that no one has a way of getting a hold of me. Ask myself if there are enough adults paying attention to the pool. Calm myself a bit by convincing myself that I’m worrying needlessly. That’s the best description I can give of parenting.

I drive to the street I’ve been on a million times and peak into the backyard of a house that I spent a lot of glorious times at. I think I want to feel emotionally affected again but the soundtrack isn’t as right. I drive to my parents’ house to get their lawnmower. I think about going to my cousin’s house to drop off the Kriss Kross VHS that she let me borrow in order to give the Internet its bounty. I get the lawnmower and notice that my dad’s truck isn’t there which means I can’t bring the tables and chairs and shit back to them like I had planned.

I get to my house and park out front. I get the lawnmower out of the trunk of the car. I think about the fact that I should’ve taken my dad’s gas can in case it needs gas. I check the gas. It looks ok. I think about how I can’t figure out that new gas container I bought and feel slight shame. I’m pretty sure I broke it anyway. It was new-agey and somewhat expensive. I remember that I found the old one at some point though so I feel a little more relaxed. My front yard isn’t big but it’s intricate with all kinds of weird shit and is a pain in the ass. Trees, big ass roots, ‘gardens.’ My dad has the mower set real close to the ground and I can’t get it lifted so I just have to go with it.

I get it started and starting cutting the grass. I think about how I don’t listen to music anymore. How I’m somewhat more comfortable with the sound of my own head now. I might wrongly think that I don’t have time to just listen to my head. The truth is I live in my head almost constantly. It puts a strain on my marriage and my family, I think. I think about doing a “dad in the life” piece where I write down everything that happens in a day as a dad. Or as me as a dad, at least. I struggle a bit with the mowing. I have to empty the bag out a couple of times.

A car pulls into my driveway and parks in the side yard where it was once decreed by my wife that we park. She has since taken to parking in the driveway in order to block people from coming in. I hope that he leaves before she comes home. I know I’m going to get shit for it. I think about my 18 year old sister-in-law who lives in our back apartment and what she might think of me or what conversations between her and her friend might be like. “Should I move my car? He’s mowing the lawn.” “Nah. Fuck him.” They probably don’t even have that conversation. It’s hard to know what kind of selfishly narrow-minded asshole you were at eighteen until you’ve lived with one. That’s why I don’t let myself be too hard on her. Or hard on her at all.

I mow the side yard. I mow around the car and think more about something. I don’t remember. I probably have more imagined conversations.

I dread doing the backyard as it is big and filled with all of my kids shit: water tables, little house things, swingset, sandbox, toys etc. This shit gets moved around a lot. It has very recently been moved into the back. I also worry because the grass is longer and the crumbling brick patio beneath the back second floor deck is fucked. I picture taking a shooting rock to the leg causing a huge gash or chunk of flesh to be ripped out. I picture gory shit happening to me.

I move all of the stuff into the driveway. My sister-in-law, her best friend and the Car Dude come out onto the porch to smoke a butt. I think about what it was like to just have graduated from high school. And how you never truly can feel that way again. Not that it’s the happiest you’ll ever be but something will never feel as final as that. As big of a relief or joy will never again be so insular. Or something. I can’t work it out.

I start mowing the back and it’s a pain in the ass. I think about what they must think of me. I wonder if they think I’m old or an asshole or if they might think I’m cool. Or what. My sister-in-law has seen some shit and been through some shit in the last couple of years that she’s lived with us. I haven’t been able to develop a real relationship with her. It makes me fear a bit for my future as a dad.

It takes me a long-ass time to finish the backyard. I have to empty the bag a lot into this big compost pile that has almost taken over the back part of the yard. I’m sweating and thirsty and a lot of times had thought about giving up. I’ve also needed to go into the carriage house to procure the gas container and fill the thing up a couple of times.

I think about how it’s already almost 3 o’clock and feel good about it. My weekends have become something to get through, a killing of time. I realize this is a fucked way to think. I wonder if I consider my weekdays my real life. If my work is my life. And my family is just something I need to kill time with. I need to change that around, I think.

I move all the stuff back into the yard. Try to act cool an aloof as if the trio are watching me. Sweep some of the clippings off of the driveway and think about when I’m going to have the time and the patience to be a real lawn care guy. To, like, weed and weed whack and really focus on making shit look tight as hell. I kind of want to be that guy a little bit. A dad and his lawn. And high probably (I realize I never took to the one-hitter). There’s something meditative and transcendent about it a little bit. But for right now, I just want to be done, inside and drinking lemonade.

I go inside. I’m dirty. I think about what I’m going to do with the house to myself for a little bit. I clean my legs and feet off, go into my bedroom, turn on the AC, get into bed and masturbate to thoughts of a college party turned orgy.

I take a shower and realize how sad it is that I cleaned my legs off in order to get into my bed instead of just showering first. Masturbatory thoughts triumph logic almost every time. By the time I’m out and dressed my wife and son are pulling into the driveway. I thought I’d have more time. I’m also keenly aware of time in order to pick up my daughter. I figure there’s no way that the party would be less than two hours.

I go outside and excitedly ask how it was. My wife talks about the car in the driveway. I lie and tell her it was there when I got back. She asks me if I said something to them. I told her that she was the driveway nazi not me. I’m constantly reminded of a passage in Michael Ian Black’s You’re Not Doing It Right where he talks about realizing that other people are the stars of their own movies. It takes a couple times of me asking to get an answer that the fun day was good. My wife’s friend gets seemingly uncomfortable and might be on my side. Sometimes an audience is nice. My son seems psyched to see me and tells me he had fun and that he saw a turtle.

I load the lawnmower into the trunk to bring it to my parents’ house. My wife asks me where our daughter is. I tell her I’m going to pick her up. She seems surprised that she’s still at the party. This gives me anxiety.

I drop the lawnmower off. My dad’s truck is still not there and then make my way back to the party. While driving on the street I’ve been on a million times I, again, try to feel something. Or at least concretely remember a specific time or see a specific ghost. I think it’s all been drained out of me from the last time.

I walk into the party and see a lot of adults. I casually make my way over to where I had put the bag of shit and see my daughter sitting on her towel eating cake and ice cream. I sit with her and ask her questions and she answers me and tells me things. I feel good for her and for me. She tells me that the mom made her a salad after she had told her she was a vegetarian. She seems relaxed. She seems comfortable here at this party around these people. She gives me the rest of her cake and goes looking for a trash can to throw her plates away. I ask if I’m the only parent that left. She says, “no; paige’s mom did too.”

They start doing the presents. I watch and smile. The weather is perfect. I feel calm. I rehearse in my head saying something about how I have a two-year-old at home and am just happy to be outside in this nice yard. I’m thinking of that as a response to sitting alone staring off into nothing.

The kids go back in the pool and I sit and stare off. The dad comes over and introduces himself. He’s a nice dad. I don’t use any of my lines on him. I think about how this mom and this dad are only 6 or so years older than me but how they seem so much like a mom and a dad. I feel like I don’t seem like a dad. Maybe this is a defense mechanism. I want to be more like a dad, I think. At least when it comes to strangers and situations like this. I’ve become terrible with crowds.

I look at the other adults and wonder if I really am the hot dad. Or a hot dad. I think that my wife is definitely the hot mom. I look around and judge everyone’s physical appearance on a scale of mom and dad ness.

I eventually decide that it’s time to leave. Some people have been drifting out and the mom of one of the girls that my daughter is friends with has rounded her up. I see this as my chance. I go over to the pool and tell her that we’re leaving. She protests a bit and then strikes a deal with me. She just wants to get onto this giant floating whale first. I acquiesce. She tries a bunch. I stand with moms and dads. They, like, flirt with each other’s husbands and wives and laugh inappropriately enthusiastically at each other. Is that the same as flirting? I don’t know. It’s all very strange. One guy is making water go up in the air through this toy and sometimes it falls on a mom. One dad is telling one mom he’s going to throw her in the pool. Etc.

Some dads and some moms are drinking beers. It validates me a bit. My wife had once implied that my family was the only family that did that and that it’s fucked. Eventhough she’s been the only one to get visibly drunk at my kids’ parties. I don’t think I even wish I could have a beer. I think I’ve shut that part of my brain off. I’ve just recently started a Court Mandated Year of Sobriety and have chosen to use it as a Metamorphosis From Dad-Body to Bro-Body.

My daughter hops on the whale. I smile at her. I get her towel. She gets out of the pool and asks if her friend left. She still protests a bit because people are still milling around. I wrap the towel around her and we say bye to the mom and the dad and leave. I’m feeling good.

We get to the car and my daughter asks about her skirt. I send her back in to grab it. She comes back and we set off. We go around a little cul-de-sac and I see a dad outside with his son and the son is swinging a bat at a ball on a t-ball stand or whatever and they have one of those cages that the ball goes into. The dad is sitting there maybe doing a lipper. I think about encouraging your child’s interest vs pushing them into something and how thin that line probably is. I think about telling my daughter that all of this used to not be here. But then realize that that is true for all of America and for all other places as well. So I don’t. We drive back the way we came in.

We get home and my son is passed out straddling the arm of one of our chairs. I smile. My wife is looking at her phone. There is a Lifetime movie on the TV. I carry him up to his bed. My wife says he had been calling for me before he passed out. He’s my dude. My daughter and wife talk about their respective trips and my daughter retires to her bedroom to watch TV or play school or read or draw or dance or whatever the hell it is she does up there.

My wife is looking at her phone. I don’t feel like asking for the remote to change the channel and getting into a whole thing about how she isn’t watching what is on and is on her phone and how hypocritical it is of her to give me shit when I’m on my phone experiencing the internet as an orgy of performace art. I go out to the porch and grab my book. I come back inside and start reading. I’ve always wanted to be the type of couple that can sit in the same room doing their own separate things comfortably and have that be ok. Maybe things are turning around.

She looks up from her phone every now and again to tell me that I didn’t do anything today. That I didn’t get anything done around the house. I tell her that I literally mowed the lawn, took a shower and then walked out the door as she was pulling in. She asks me why it took my two hours to mow the lawn. I tell her it probably took an hour and a half. She tells me that it never takes me that long. I ask her if she’s out of her fucking mind. She asks me why I have to swear and be mean. She doesn’t really get time all that much, I don’t think.

Some time passes. She tells me she’s researching religions. She wants us to become religious. She thinks Protestants are cool. She starts telling me about Martin Luther. I speak up a bit. She tells me that I don’t believe in God. She talks more and tries educating me a bit. We laugh about what my parents and her grandparents would think if we joined a church run by this bearded guy she found on the Internet. We maybe decide to try becoming Protestant. We’re not drinking anymore. We don’t have anything better to do. I think she wants our kids to grow up with a nice idea of what happens when you die. Her mother is dead.

We wrap up our talk and decide to watch a movie called, Dark Skies. It seems like some creepy shit. My wife likes creepy movies. My daughter comes down and asks if she can play outside in the front yard. She goes out there with her ipod and dances and sings. My wife tells me she needs a jar of olives to eat while watching the movie. I go and get them and come back.

While watching Dark Skies, I can’t stop thinking about Blake Butler’s, There Is No Year. I think about how creepy a movie based on that book would be. How impossible it would be to stay true to that book in order to make the movie good enough.

There are times when the wife emasculates the husband. I feel his pain. There’s a time where they kiss passionately after he gets a job and I’m reminded how little kissing I do now. I want to kiss more. I hate my breath. Soda has ruined the sexual intimacy within my marriage.

My daughter comes in and says she wants to take a tub. My wife quickly gets irritated with her. I’m more gentle with her. I tell her she can take one on her own. She goes up and turns the water on. I go up to help her get the temperature right. She says it’s good but it’s cold as fuck. I adjust shit and tell her to only adjust the cold now. That I got the hot good to stay where it is. I tell her to hurry up and get in. Mostly because I’m a dad and I worry about waste also the sound is loud and my son’s room is across the hall. Also I have no patience. Also I want to go back down to finish the movie and not worry about what she’s doing.

I go back down and watch the movie. It stays ok and all around is pretty fucked. I listen occasionally upstairs to make sure I hear water from the shower splash a bit. We bathe like the elderly in that the old-ass tub we have doesn’t have a shower so we’ve connected a, like, As Seen On TV, shower nozzle that goes onto the faucet so you can hold it while you sit and guide it around your body. We’ve lived like this for two years or so.

A little while later I hear the bathroom door open and the pitter patter of feet. She calls down that she’s done. I calm down a little bit. She then calls down about the drain. That she wasn’t sure if she did the drain right. I tell her that it should be fine since she took a shower not a bath. She says she couldn’t get it up all the way. I run up the stairs a little bit to make sure it’s still up. I peek in and it looks fine and I tell her as much. I tell her to put her jammies on.

A little while later she comes downstairs and says the water is getting higher. I ask her if she turned the water off. She doesn’t answer. I go upstairs with her and tell her that she has to turn the water off. I say this kind of angrily, I think. In a frustrated tone.

We get up in the bathroom and she stands in front of me. I tell her to turn the water off. She only turns the hot dial. I tell her to turn the water off. I ask her what she did to turn it on. And tell her that whatever she did to turn it on is what she needs to do to turn it off. My frustrated tone still present. I assume she would just say something to the effect that she forgot and realizes how easy and silly it is. But I think she’s thinking, “oh shit.” So, she’s probably scared. She probably thinks that she’s in trouble. That she fucked up. That I’m angry. Instead of comforting her or telling her what to do, I ask a bunch of questions. I’m trying to teach her. I might’ve learned this from working with autistic/mentally retarded children and adults but it’s not a good technique. Her eyes well up while I’m like, why wouldn’t you turn the water off? You turned it on right? You need to turn it off. This could’ve been bad. The water could’ve overflowed and started flooding the floor and coming down from the ceiling. She keeps mentioning the drain. She thought it all had to do with the drain. I tell her to forget the drain, that the drain has nothing to do with it. She’s pretty much inconsolable at this point. I’m scaring the shit out of her but I can’t stop. I’m not yelling and I’m not mad though it probably sounds like I’m both, to her. Somehow we wrap up and I go back downstairs.

My wife asks me why I have to harp on and on. I tell her that I don’t. That I’m just trying to teach her. She tells me that she knows me. That I like to bully people and yell at them until they cry. This isn’t said in jest like the other badgers from the day. I’m pissed at her for this and am hurt. I’m hurt for me and for my daughter. I try to focus on the movie again.

My daughter comes down later still upset and asks in a quiet voice if it is her bed time. I motion for her to come sit with me. She sits in my lap, puts her head on my shoulder and sobs quietly as I pet her wet head.

My wife says something about the fact that she shouldn’t be watching this because shit is hitting the fan with aliens and scary shit. I tell her that she’s not watching. We sit like this for a little while and then my wife tells me to bring her to bed. I tell her to pause the movie.

I carry my daughter up to bed and tuck her in. I tell her not to be sad. That it wasn’t a big deal. She says she’s sorry and starts crying harder. I tell her not to worry. That she made a mistake and I was just trying to teach her instead of just telling her what to do. That I wanted her to do it on her own so that the next time she’d know. I tell her that nothing she does could make me love her any less. She says, “but I made a mistake.” I tell her that she’s going to make a thousand mistakes, that I expect her to and that that’s totally ok. I tell her that I made a mistake by talking to her the way that I did. That I’m way older than her but continue to make mistakes, that that’s how we learn and that learning is the single most important thing we can do as humans. She asks me if I still love her. I tell her of course and that she’s my favorite person in the whole world. I ask her if she still loves me and she says yes. She stops crying. I hug her and give her a kiss and tell her goodnight though my heart still breaks for her in tiny increments.

I go back downstairs and my wife asks me why that took me so long. I tell her that we had a talk. She is perturbed because the movie had been on pause. We watch the rest of the movie and then watch Bob’s Burgers. It’s the first time she watches it with me and I’m happy that she laughs. Bob reminds her of her friend’s husband.

My son wakes up and cries a bit. I go to the stairs and he’s up there rubbing his face, his hair a mess. I go up and grab him and put him down on the couch. My wife goes upstairs and doesn’t come back down. It’s rare that she goes to bed without me. It’s rare that I don’t have to rub her back until she falls asleep.

I lie down with my son on the couch and put on Family Guy. I ask him if he’s hungry. I get him a bottle of milk. I take my daughter’s ipod and go on the internet while we lie there together. I kind of wish my daughter was down there with us or that I was up in her bed holding her. I still feel shitty. I decide to start a movie called Celeste and Jesse Forever. The idea being that my son will fall asleep faster if something shitty to him is on TV. I watch that for a bit until I realize he’s sleeping. I turn everything off and carry him up to bed.

I go into my room, undress and crawl into bed with my sleeping wife. I lie awake. Somehow at some point the stranger in my brain quiets down enough for me to find sleep.

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