This Tastes Like Dust
The Honeymoon is Over
“One Morning at the Kum & Go”
I am trembling. Stop it. Everyone can tell. He can probably see from the window. I haven’t even got out of the van yet. “Mama!” I hear Lawrence. “Just real quick, babies. In and out. Quick and quiet, right?” I can see them both struggling in their car seats. Time to get out. I plop Lawrence down on the icy parking lot. “Flippers! Flippers!” he demands. “Gotta get your brother first, baby.” I drag him to the other side of the van. I unbuckle Arnold. Three-year-old twin boys are trouble in duplicate. Arnold nearly kicks me in the teeth as I pull him free. The boys whine. I slam the stuffed diaper bag over my shoulder. I drop my arms straight against my sides and poke my hands out, palms down, and waddle toward the door. The boys giggle and grab my hand on either side. There. Now we can walk into the store. My god, why are we here? Do we need anything? “Hustle, we just need some TP.” This sets them off. “TP for the pee-pee!” We stumble inside. I can’t see any other shoppers. But I do see Phillip. He’s reading the paper. Of course he is. Every morning, he’s got the paper. Even this morning. I wonder if it’s the same one, if he took one from the lobby and hurried it home with him. “Gotta get to work,” he said to me. I’m smiling. Stop it. The boys are chatting at him, and I can’t make out what they’re saying. I’m sure it’s nonsense. I see him listen to them. He always listens with his whole body. He always leans in like that and looks at them. They’re jumping up and down, and he’s smiling at them, but not in a patronizing way. He’s being lovely with them. He’s being him. They run off somewhere toward the back of the store. “Hello to you,” Phillip says. I realize I’m standing at the counter of a convenience store, staring at the clerk. The diaper bag is sliding off my shoulder. I fight with it like an idiot. “How was your morning?” How can he ask me that? In front of the whole store? I realize I’m very hot now. I want to take everything off. Maybe later. “Stop it,” I say, accidentally out loud. But then, “They’ll hear.” It’s true. They are old enough to understand what is going on here. They probably already know. What were they talking to Phillip about when we walked in? Phillip seems completely at ease. Like he owns this place. He is looking right at me, like he owns me, too. Does he? I feel my guts roll around under my coat. I can’t tell if it’s a good or bad. My head hurts, but that could be lack of sleep. Or it could be me, telling myself this is wrong. I’m wrong. I’ve been a widow for two years. Is that long enough? Or will my boys hate me for this, when they’re old enough to know?
How are your New Year’s Resolutions?
My one goal of the year is fine, thank you very much, even though these past two weeks are trying hard to blow it all up.
Who remembers the OG COVID lockdown? And then the shorter, smaller ones, later in the years of the pandemic? And now our kids no longer have snow days. They have e-learning days. Last week, we didn’t have school on Presidents’ Day or the Tuesday after, and then the rest of the week was dedicated to e-learning because we got a foot of snow. And I was solo parenting for part of it. We didn’t have school this past Friday, either, for teachers’ continuing ed (I think), and I continue to solo parent. My three-year-old enjoys full-contact sleeping, so if I’m the only body in the bed, he notices when I try to extract myself at 5:00 to go write. Or to just breathe, alone, in a room. Alone.
Even so, I’m still writing with 1,000% more consistency than I have for as long as I can remember. I can usually manage 30-90 minutes a day. A dream come true, as far as I’m concerned.
Which isn’t to say it’s all easy and fun. The past couple of weeks, the honeymoon period definitely disintegrated. Committing the time is difficult, especially in current circumstances, but I’m feeling better for it.
Here’s my final story this week, inspired by true events.
The seat heater in the van is not working again. It’s not just the light on the button that’s out. It’s the heater in total. I wonder if this were a self-starting car whether the self-starter would start the seat heater. Seems like a thing a human finger needs to press. Human fingers are strange things. Most of mine work. One has a Band-Aid on it. Looks like it needs to be changed. I’ve heard stories about kids getting kicked out of daycares for biting. I’m looking at his little face that waits and cries for me from inside. At least I got the heat running. Here goes. Pick him up. For a toddler, he doesn’t speak much, but what words he does use are specifically crushing. “Don’t do this, Mommy!” he screams directly into my ear. I remember thinking gymnastics for babies and toddlers would be fun. He slams his head into mine. He hasn’t ripped off his hat yet; there are a couple layers of soft fabric protection on our heads. The ice on the driveway is smooth and thick. I didn’t put spikes on my boots because I’ve learned that toddlers enjoy grabbing things with their bare hands. I’ve heard plenty of helpful suggestions surrounding this dilemma. Just tell him no (like a dog we will never own). Close the door while you put your spikes on (and listen as he either slams his body into the door while wailing your name or becomes quiet and you find he’s climbed on top of the stove, tickling the knives you’ve tucked away on the counter to be out of his reach). Put your spikes on the night before. In fact, do all of your morning work the night before (and know you have no break from doing or thinking about or preparing for life with this child and wonder why you don’t drink anymore). Holding the child as we descend to the ice rink, I hope for the best. His car seat is situated on the opposite side of the van. I slip only twice, nothing to do with the head butts I’m getting to my temple. The van door opens halfway, beeps, and slides closed again. I don’t blame it. I’d reject us, too. But when in doubt and desperation, I use force. I pull the door and it sighs open. I flip the boy into his seat. The twisting and turning he performs while I restrain him leaves me questioning why he doesn’t love gymnastics. I sweep a toy car from his seat and finally fasten one of the two buckles. He kicks me in the nose. At least this time it’s not the eye. I snap the last buckle. He has already thrown his hat and mittens off. But he can’t get out. The van swallows him as the door wheezes closed. I check my nose. I don’t think it’s bleeding. I slide into my seat. I’m happy the heater isn’t working. I’m sweating.
Thank you for reading. I’ll be back with more soon.
Good luck in the week ahead.