New Day

When I opened my eyes this morning I realized I would be able to get out of bed today. I sat up feeling a strange elation and the sun was flashing through my window like a beacon.

Then the guilt of everything I had abandoned over the past few days washed over me. But I happily pushed it aside and looked around my room. I was shocked to see potato chip crumbs on the comforter and clothes laying around the wood floors in colorful hills. I hopped out of bed and ran through the house to the cupboard under the kitchen sink and grabbed a garbage bag. I hurried past the living room where Chris lay asleep on the couch and back to our bedroom, grabbing a laundry basket along the way.

Back in my room I swept around like Cinderella. I opened a window so I could hear the birds chirping outside and whisked the garbage into the trash bags and the laundry into the laundry basket. I was horrified to see my chocolate wrappers on the floor and a half eaten Cliff Bar under a damp towel on the floor. But I didn’t dwell on anything and within minutes the room was looking bright and clean. I came back with a mop and paper towels  and cleaners and scrubbed until my bedroom gleamed. I looked out of the windows…flowers, all it needed now was flowers. I ran into the front garden and picked some wild flowers that were growing up the side of the fence, then I hurried in, banging the screen door behind me and found a cute little white vase from Ikea in the kitchen. I filled it with water and plunked the flowers in. It was perfect.

Chris sat up on the couch as I hurried past him to our bedroom.

“Feeling better this morning?”

I looked over at him, holding my flowers, and we smiled at each other. He rubbed his eyes and I went to find the perfect spot for the vase. Then I sat on my bed to look at how the flowers brightened the room and was shocked at the tears running down my face. Where were these coming from? I thought of laying in bed for hours, ignoring Zoe, calling Chris to come and make her lunch, sitting in a storm on the beach then ignoring Chris on the way home. Why did I do that, why? Then the disgust of my betrayal to Chris set in and I realized I could slip back into that dank hole I had been living in for the past few days. I decided I didn’t want that.

I wiped the tears and looked up to see Chris standing at the doorway.

“What can I do?” he said, looking a little frightened.

“I don’t know, Chris. I don’t know. I have energy though, so I want to get the house in order first thing.”

“OK. I’ll make breakfast for when Zoe gets up.”

I thought about how one of his amazing breakfasts would mess up the kitchen. “Just cereal!” I called out to him.

“Cereal, check,” he said.

“Seatbelt Chair”

When I picked Zoe up a little early from preschool yesterday she was crying. I asked her what was wrong as we walked out to the school hallway and she said, “chair seatbelt.”

“Chair seatbelt?”

“Chair seatbelt.”

I turned us around and we walked back to her classroom. I was holding her wrist, (she doesn’t hold back when I hold her hand) and I opened the wooden door and stuck my head in. Her teacher came up to me and I walked in and said, “What is a chair seatbelt?”

He teacher looked a little flustered and I though it looked like her checks were going red.  My heart started to pound, worried about what I was about to be told. The assistant teacher overhead and she walked up to me. She was an older woman, in her late fifty’s and quite gruff, from the south, usually told funny stories but the kids always listened quickly to her stern voice when it got a little louder. She pointed to a newish-looking wooden chair against the corner wall of the classroom that had straps dangling from it.

“When the kids get out of control we put them in timeout in the timeout chair.” She said. “Zoe threw a chalk-board eraser at Emily today and wouldn’t listen when we told her to apologize so she had to sit in timeout”.

“With straps?” I said.

“That is only if they are out of control and not listening,” she said.

I looked at the lead-teacher who looked to me like she was struggling to hide her embarrassment. The kids were still playing around them, puzzles on the short table while they sat on the rug, play-dough with the intern, blocks in the “block corner”. It seemed calm but there was a serious tension between me and the teachers.

I walked over to the wooden chair and inspected it, then I looked over at my little Zoe who was trying to chew on her hair. I imagined them buckling her into it while she protested. It was hard to even imagine her protesting. There was not a more laid back and sweet child than Zoe.

“I understand you have to discipline the kids” I began, trying to sound diplomatic and calm. “But Zoe is never violent, would never intentionally hurt anyone. Why did she throw an eraser at Emily?”

“I think she wanted to play with what Emily was playing with”, the teacher’s assistant said.

This didn’t make sense. Zoe didn’t care enough about things to get upset. In fact, pretty much any kid could take any toy out of her hand and she would never object. Her speech therapist is actually trying to TEACH her the concept of “mine”.

My heart was pounding and I took a breath to try and be brave and I simply said, “I don’t want Zoe to be disciplined in that seatbelt chair, ever. If things ever get to that point, call me first and I will come and pick her up.”

Her teacher said, “OK, no problem. We can make that exception for Zoe.”

As Zoe and I walked out of the classroom I couldn’t imagine bringing her back to the classroom again. I wondered if I should tell the other parents about the seatbelt chair, or if I was just an overprotective weirdo who cared too much about this type of stuff.

Today we are at home. I’m feeling good. We are having fun…waiting on return phone call from a local private school called Oxbridge. I thought the name was funny, like they couldn’t decide between Oxford or Cambridge so they called it Oxbridge. I’ll have to ask them that during our tour. Wish me luck.

Did You Really Just Say That?

“Oh my God, did you really just say that?”

Jake leaned against the wall, grinning at me as I held my front door open and gaped at him.

“What? ‘I think you should leave your husband,’ is a perfectly valid conclusion to come to. He doesn’t make you happy, so be happy and be on your own.”

“You are not even going to offer to pick up the slack once I kick him to the curb? How can you stand there and tell me to leave my husband and then say that is it is so I can be ALONE and not even with you?”

“Well of course you would be with me. I just didn’t want to scare you off.”

I looked at him inquisitively as he stood at my front door. I wasn’t going to let him in. Things had been good between Chris and I, finally. Now here was my solution-to-the problem, turned problem, standing right in front of me, and he was so cute. I was now remembering why I risked everything to loose myself in Jake.

“You are crazy, why are you even here?”

He frowned. It was unlike me to be so rude. He didn’t like this. Was he still going to be nice?

“I took a risk coming here, saying that.” he said.

“What kind of a risk? A risk of getting your ass kicked by my husband?”

“An emotional risk.” he said. “Do you not even care that I like you, a lot and think about you all the fucking time?”

“I’m NOT available” I said.

He looked right into me with his amazing green eyes and cut them at me. “Not today. And how was I supposed to know that? You should have a Chris meter at the door that goes from red to green.” He was suddenly very animated, breathing faster, turning a little red and waving his hand in the air.  “Red means you and Chris are doing well and to stay away. Green means that you and Chris are having a fight so you will shack up with the kid down the street.”

“Just go.” I yelled at him. “I don’t have to deal with this!” My heart was aching. This was too much, too true.

“Then come with me” he pleaded alarmingly, suddenly turning calm. “Chris is at work. Come to my house. We can just talk, nothing else.”

I had never seen him let his guard down like this. It was embarrassing. I felt like if I shot him down now, that this was it. Maybe that would be good. I considered taking the opportunity, being rid of him forever with one more scathing remark. But I stood there, quietly.

He waited for an answer.

“How can you tell me to leave my husband? Is this some kind of a joke?” I asked.

“I just wanted to get your attention. I just wanted you to realize what we have is real and that you have other options.”

“You are not an option, Jake.” I said. “You are a distraction.”

He pondered this. “Am I going to stay a distraction?” he asked.

I realized he was asking if we were breaking up in a weird way. ” I don’t know” I said.

“I’m here” he said. I wanted to hug him, to go with him, to make both of us feel better. But this time I was going to be strong, because for some reason I was able to be.

“Ok” I said and smiled at him.

Jake turned and walked back down my path, then I looked up to see Chris riding his bike down the street towards the house.

All I Ever Wanted Was Odette – By Chris

Odette is screwing the kid down the street, Zoe has autism and I am getting gray-fuckin hairs. I do not actually know for sure that she is screwing him, but I know she wants to. We had not made love for months and then, one night, she suddenly leads me to the bedroom. I could tell right away that it wasn’t me she wanted. It wasn’t me she was thinking about when she closed her eyes. I didn’t care though. All I cared about was that Odette was finally letting me touch her, hold her, kiss her….”

Now, we are working together to help Zoe and things are supposedly “better”. Odette even held my hand the other day for no reason. Just like, she grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze as we were walking through the gluten free aisle at Whole Foods. So, why don’t I feel happy? Why do I still feel like I am walking on eggshells around her?

Odette apparently thinks that all those months when she just lied in her bed and cried and couldn’t get up and couldn’t care about Zoe, about me, that I just “took it like a champ”. If I didn’t have the guys in the band, at the music shop, I would have probably run off somewhere. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have taken Zoe and gone to my parents and let Odette just wallow. There is that girl at Starbucks….”

My band got back together. I am still not sure if it is a good idea. We are older now, tired. Does anyone really care what some 30 year old guys have to say? Do we even have anything to say? Alex said we have to get a “new look”. I wish I could just bang the drums and forget. Maybe James should be the singer; he always liked the attention more than I did. All I ever liked was Odette.

I am supposed to go to some autism parenting support group with Odette. Why does it feel like I am always supporting the women in my life? What are they going to do when I go on tour?

A Little Sugar (Did You Really Just Say That? Part-Deux)

When Chris pulled up on his bike, Jake was walking out of the gate. Jake looked up at Chris. They seemed to lock eyes for one terrifying second. Then Jake turned his back and carefully, slowly latched the gate, then walked off putting his hands in his pockets.

I waited for Chris to say something to Jake but he didn’t. I waited for him to say something to me but he just hopped off his bike and walked it back to the shed. My heart was beating fast and I thought about following him back there. Instead, I went in the house and sat down at the dining room table and waited.

My cat was sitting on the table scratching behind his collar, bell jingling away like mad and I pushed him off the table and waited. I heard the side screen door creek open and Chris walked in. He walked past me without talking and into the living room. It was quiet. I waited for a couple of minutes, still quiet, so I got up and walked to the living room where he was sitting on the couch looking at his iPad.I just stood and looked at him and he sat, swipe swipe swipe on the iPad. I thought about just going to my room. Yes, that is what I would do. If he wanted to ignore this, then that was fine with me. I turned my back to head over to my room.

“Are you fucking him?” he said to my back.
I stood there and thought. I thought about what I would say if I weren’t fucking him.

“That is really insulting” I said, and almost laughed. I am a horrible person.
“Are you?” He said.

I found it suddenly really hard to say no. But if I said yes, that would be like pulling the needle out of the grenade. So I walked off to my room, deciding to deal with it later.The door crashed open and Chris’s face was red. It looked like he was going to start crying.

“If you don’t give me a straight answer, then I will got down the street and get it from him.”
“Go on then,” I said.

He looked at me like he couldn’t believe I just said that to him, like I must really not care about him at all. And and I suddenly regretted it too.

Not quite looking at him, I said, “No, don’t go yelling at anyone while you are so mad. Please calm down. There really is nothing to be angry about.”

He walked out of the room and then I heard the screen door banging shut behind him. I thought that maybe I should follow him but I decided to just sit on my bed and wait. I don’t like confrontation.

A few minutes later I heard him come back in the front door while I was still sitting on my bed.

“Did you talk to him?” I called out.
“Yep!”, he answered from the kitchen. I heard glass clinking.
“What did he say?”
“He said he just came over to get some sugar.”
“What?” I was horrified. I thought back to when Jake thought it was really funny to wrap his arm around me and growl, ‘gimmie some sugar’ to totally annoy me. This was going to be a disaster.

“He said he came over to – borrow – a – cup – of – sugar.”

I was stunned. Confused. Did Chris believe that? Surely he didn’t.
Chris walked in the bedroom door. He was holding our measuring cup. “He gave me this back” he said.

I looked at the measuring cup. How the heck did Jake get that?

“He even offered to bring us some cookies later but I told him not to ever fucking come near our house ever again.”
“Oh.” I said. “Ok.”
And that was it.

I’m still sitting here in our room. Not sure what is going to happen next. I guess one of us has to go pick up Zoe. I really want to know how Jake got our measuring cup. It certainly doesn’t fit in his pocket.

By, Jake

I’m actually almost feeling sorry for that guy. I’ve always thought, if he can’t satisfy his wife, then fuck him, I’ll do it for him. But after he came over today, for a few minutes I actually felt like maybe what I was doing wasn’t such a good idea.

He just opened my door on his own and stood there looking at me playing video games on the couch. I put down my controller and got up to see what he wanted. I was getting a bit pumped because I wasn’t sure if I was about to get in some stupid fist-fight at my front door. But he just stood there looking really pathetic and he said, “We have a daughter.”

“We do?” I said and couldn’t help but smile at my joke. I looked at his face, ready to duck, but he was just standing there looking miserable. Then I felt bad. I said, “OK, you and Odette have a daughter. I know that”

He said, “We have a 2-year-old daughter with autism.” He looked utterly dejected. It was terrible to see a guy looking like that. I could feel the back of my neck getting itchy and my cheeks burning. I knew what he was saying. This wasn’t funny anymore. “Ok dude” I said. Then he turned and walked away.

I left the door open and leaned against the wall. A surprisingly cool breeze brushed against my face. Odette’s husband continued down our path to the sidewalk. He didn’t turn back around. I relaxed a bit. My roommate, Danny was sitting there on the living room couch playing video games and he said, “Oh man, that was brutal. What are you doing dude?”

I said, “Shut the fuck up, Danny.” I paused for a while while Danny gunned down everything in front of him. “I still like her though,” I said.

“I know you do. You are a misogynistic fucked up bastard.”

“Philogynist, not misogynist. I like women.”

“I disagree,” Danny said. “What about that little girl with autism? I’m pretty sure you know she would rather have Daddy around than you.” He gunned the last man down with splendid technique. But even so, I noticed he still had a few things to learn.

Stumbling Towards Sparks

I have blissfully managed to not just keep the house clean, but to translate recipes from french magazines…fry up exotic veggies in garlic and coconut oil… then create lunches of bright green salads with homemade toasted caramel-coated almonds and experimental dressings.

I have weeded out old clothes and left two closets immaculately magazine-worthy.

But I am starting to realize the the highs are like Instagram blue skies or like warm rain that washes away anything wrong in the world. The lows…well never mind them.

This is the new me. I can find longevity in this sparkly optimism. And if I try to keep the lows pushed far away, then maybe they will stay there forever. Hmm….

One of the things about being a “little bit crazy” is that Chris uses it as an excuse to forgive me for pretty much everything, which is killing him. When he goes off on tour maybe I will just let him go. We have been together since we were so young. There is nothing left between us and now I am stumbling towards sparks at the cost of everyone around me. Time to fix that before the flip side finds me again.

Are you Leaving Him Because I Told You To?

“Are you leaving him because I told you to?”

“Why do you think everything is about you?”

“Because to me, everything is about me. It is a natural fucking human perception of the world. Now is it my fault that you are leaving that guy and taking his kid?”

I fiddled with my wedding ring, still on my finger. “I hate it when you cuss at me” I mumbled. “It is so rude.”

“There is something about you, Odette, that makes guys want you to be happy. You just made me feel bad for cussing. I never feel bad for shit like that.”

I smiled at my fingers. I wondered if I should take my ring off after I told Chris we were over. It was so pretty, with a large diamond on the front that had scratched Zoe a couple of times.

“I can’t replace him” he said.

“As if you could.” I said.

We sat there in silence.

I suddenly realized Chris’s worth.

Band Practice – By Chris

The warehouse was stifling hot and James flipped on the light with a drumstick. He had the middle of his light blonde hair stuck up in some kind of a Mohawk and he wiped the sweat out of his blue eyes that girls always freak out over. He threw the sweat-rag on a stool.

I grabbed Dave’s guitar off the hook on the wall, then leaned against the amp stack.”I don’t know if I should go on tour,” I said to him.

“Why not?” he looked surprised. He tossed the drumstick on to the snare drum which promptly rolled onto the floor.

“Pretty sure Odette is going to leave me.”

“No way. I can’t believe that dude,” he said shaking his head. “What happened?”

I sat down on an amp and started to tune Dave’s guitar. It felt good to do something familiar. I looked up at James who was sitting at his drums now and starting to thud the bass drum with his bare foot. He looked so care free, like his biggest problem was what kind of product he should use in his hair to form the ultimate Mohawk. “I’m wondering if I should I leave her first.” I said.

He stopped thudding the drum. “Leave her?” He said. “Didn’t her sister just die?”

“She’s cheating on me with some fucking college student down the street.” I managed to spit out. “And she doesn’t want me anymore so I don’t want her.”  I could sense a lump forming in my throat but I was too angry to feel sad.

James started to run his hands through his hair. “That is so fucked up dude” he said. “Have you really thought about it all, like, what you should do?”

”Pretty much all I do is think about it” I said. “I talked to Dave’s brother since you know he’s a lawyer and all, and he said I would be able to keep all of the money from the band since I earned it before we were married.” I gazed at the orange pick as I moved it against the strings. It seemed to make the words easier to say. “So, she would only get half of what I earn from the record store and maybe the house.”

I looked up at James who was staring at me in disbelief from behind the drum set. We were both silent for a minute. “And I wonder how soon it would be for her to move that asshole in?” I said. “Did I tell you I met him? He’s a fucking kid! I am not even sure he is out of puberty yet. I am sure I saw a god damn zit on his chin.”

Alex came in carrying his bass in one hand and sucking on a Slurpee with the other. He looked at me, then James, then me again. “Who died?” he said.

“Odette’s doin’ it with some college student” James said. “And Chris is trying to figure out how to leave her with no money.”

“She’s got plenty of money.” I practically shouted. “She doesn’t need anything from me.”

Alex sat on the bass amp, took his shirt off and threw it on the floor and looked at me shaking his head. He shaved his head yesterday so he kind of looked like a freak with his shirt off…so much skin it was disturbing. “I thought you guys were the real deal” he said. “I can’t believe she’d do that to you.”

“I had a chance to confront her too.” I said. “Last week I came home early one day and he was at my god damn house. I just let it go though because she didn’t even fight for me. She didn’t deny anything, not really anyway. She ran to her room and acted all wounded and scared. She acted like I was the bad guy. She acted like Odette.”

“Did you punch the kid?” Alex slurped up some of the ice. He pulled the straw out and some blue dripped onto his bare chest.

“Yeah” James piped in. “Did you punch the fucker?”

The air conditioner kicked on and blew some cold air through the thick humidity.

“Nah, I went over to his front door and I just couldn’t do it. I just didn’t have the anger or energy or something. I know it’s Odette’s fault. She’s hard to say no to.”

James and Alex flashed each other a look.

“And, I didn’t get it.” I said. “I mean, sure, he’s not ugly, but it’s not like I couldn’t get any girl I want!”

James laughed, “And you never even cheated on her on tour either did you? And you had like, a hundred opportunities.”

I shrugged, not really wanting to think too much about that. “That was a long time ago.” I said, “But now there’s that fine chick at Starbucks with the pink streak in her hair to match her bra strap that’s always hanging out.” They both nodded and murmured in approval. “She hasn’t charged me in like 5 months! I don’t do anything about it. Yet my wife falls for some asshole that is studying carbs or something.” I put my guitar pick between my lips.

James started to beat the bass drum again and then played some fills. Alex sighed and started to get his bass plugged in.

“You want me to go over there and beat the crap out of him?” James shouted over his drumming. “Maybe I should stuff a fucking sausage roll down his throat!?”

I smiled, enjoying the image then spat the pic out on the floor. “Thanks bro, but what good would that do? And what about Zoe? The Mother always gets custody. I’ll have to be one of those weekend Dads. I’ll have to go to Chuck E Cheese.”

“I’ll go to Chuck E Cheese with you!” Alex piped in. He started to play a new bass line so I strummed some notes over it. Then I stopped and looked at them both. This was not what I wanted. This wasn’t the song I wanted to write.

“Maybe I’ll tell Odette we have to move.” I said. ‘Maybe if we start over things can go back to the way they were.” I imagined us living in a house by the ocean. Zoe loved the water. “And maybe things will even be better. We can have another kid. We can have a fresh start.”

The guys stopped playing. They looked grim which was unusual for them.

“You can’t move. The band needs you here.” Alex said and James threw his drumstick at him. “what…are you doing? This isn’t about you!”

I looked at James and Alex. They had been there from the beginning. They knew how important my girls were to me.

“Something has to fucking change.” I said. “I can’t loose her. I can’t let her take Zoe from me.”

They both nodded looking depressed too and I felt like an asshole. I started to strum some chords of a song I made up for Odette when we were kids but they didn’t join in.

Dave walked in and held his hand out for me to give him his guitar.

I pulled it from around my neck and handed it to him and suddenly wanted to get practice done and over with. “Let’s do this!” I said. “I gotta get home in time to make dinner!”  James started to bang on the drums. Dave plugged in to the stacks, cranked up the volume and a loud hum resonated through the warehouse. I wandered over to the mic, closed my eyes, pressed my lips against cold metal and breathed. “Check, check, check.”

It’s Different in Brooklyn

“But he’s so unbelievably hot.”

“But he’s a KID!” Astrid screeched over the phone at me. He’s only 22? You are almost 30 and you have a family!! What is going on with you?”

“Astrid, he is so hot.” I said again. Helplessly. “He just makes me laugh and forget everything.”

Silence.

“I think you’ve finally lost it. What would Meliah think? She wouldn’t let you do this.”

“I cheated on Chris with him.” I said.

I heard Astrid sigh. “Like how-cheated?” she said.

“Like everything-cheated.”

“So there is no going back from there,” she murmured. “But Chris is so great Odette. This sucks. Are you still seeing this kid?”

“Kind of. He lives only a few houses away so it is hard to stay away.”

“Oh Odette, no, no, no!! Why didn’t you tell me about this before? I would have come there to help! Why just now are you telling me about this?”

“As if you would come. I haven’t seen you since Meliah’s funeral. Neither have Mom and  Dad. Stop acting like you can save me when you just stay in your little perfect world.”

“My world isn’t perfect, Odette.”

“You have your perfect boyfriend, and your store and your band and your amazing place. It is perfect”

“No, things are not perfect. I’m not perfect. In fact I shouldn’t be judging you. Do you remember Adam from college?”

“Of course.” I said smiling

“Well, I’ve been seeing him on and off.”

“What!?”

“But at least I am not married, Odette, I don’t have any kids.  Anyway, it’s different in Brooklyn.”

Different in Brooklyn. It sounded like a different universe.

“Maybe Zoe and I should come to Brooklyn for a little while. There is stuff there for kids to do right?”

“Tons,” she said.  “It’s like stroller central around Williamsburg these days. Come and stay with me. I would so love to have you here in my world for a while.”

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