“It’s a great looking sweater, Noah.”
“It’s too big, makes me look fat.”
“Geez, if you’re fat, I’m a fairy with wings and a wand.”
He starts taking the sweater off. We’re already late for the school bus and risk missing it.
“If we miss the bus, boy, you will suffer the torments of hell for eons to come.”
“It’s not even cold outside.”
“It’s nipple stiffening cold.”
He huffs and twists in frustration but keeps the damn thing on. It’s a really nice sweater, cool, with hoodie and big pockets.
“It has no zipper. That’s one of the things I hate.”
“So wear your brand new blue sweater.”
“Oh right, you lost that one in a record three days. So wear the old red one, why don’t you?”
“I didn’t lose that one. I know exactly where it is.”
“Is it in the house?”
“No, I left it in the music room at school.”
“So can you wear it this morning?”
He doesn’t answer the question, like a nasty politician.
“Dad, I still hate this…”
“Stop. If I were you I would be thankful I’m not freezing this morning despite having lost or misplaced the two sweaters I normally wear. I would hold my peace knowing that I screwed up but somebody else is fixing it. You sound like the bloody Republicans. Take responsibility and work with me. Dammit.”
The Republican jab is sure to rile him. He thinks they’re all dumb or nasty or both.
“Geez, dad, take it easy.”
I should just have let him suffer the cold wind, let his sensitive little nipples stiffen so hard they would scratch up against his shirt and drive him to distraction. Happened to me in high-school when I sneaked out in my older brother’s new jean shirt. By midday, I was so raw I cried, literally.
The price of my arrogance.
“Wha…? you don’t even know what I’m going to say.”
“I’m just being uncooperative, For no reason.”
He shakes his head and walks quickly ahead of me. At least, we won’t miss the bus.
I spent over an hour the previous afternoon talking him up with his new teachers. How he was brilliant and moral and fun and full of talents.
But I also worked with them to understand how to circumvent his self-defeating extremism, his arbitrary barricades, his wrong-headed stubbornness.
Flashback over flashback tells me that he’s a sweet fruit that fell close to the family tree.
I saw one of his teacher’s tear-up in the discussion, yesterday. Not at the obvious moment when I was describing how he had to live his Mother’s insanity with it’s predictable violence, both physical (to me) and psychological (to us both).
No. Her eyes became shiny and moist when I stuck out my clenched fist and opened it slowly to demonstrate how I wanted to release his tense fearful energy so that he felt safe enough to just be open.
My only objective was to help him learn happiness.
He turns back to look at me over his shoulder. I stick my tongue out, but with a smile. He does the same.
And he chortles.
Yeah, we’re a team. And, yeah, he’ll be all right. Perhaps, he might even go through life without ever suffering from raw nipples.
Now that’s progress.