I’m mopping the floor. I’m expecting someone. Ardently. Fearfully. The place is a mess. A bell rings. Too late. I’m too late. It’s too late. The bell rings with insistence. As I rush to the door, I fall to a horizontal position. Flow to the side… and turn.
My mind focuses down to a point before my eyes. My phone is on the night table, vibrating madly. It buzzes off the table, onto the ground.
Shit! It’s 7 a.m. again. I might as well get up quickly. Staying in bed means falling asleep and mopping the floor in fear.
As I step out of my room I bump into Noah, catch him before he hits the wall. He looks up at me with puffy eyes.
“Hey, dad. It’s dark.”
I look at the kitchen window. Actually there’s bright sunlight streaming in.
“Open your eyes, Noah, it’s nice and sunny.”
He lifts his eyebrows but fails to open his eyes beyond the embryonic slit stage.
“Oooouuuh, that’s too bright, dad. I wanna go back to bed.”
He leans his head against my belly. I rub the scruff of his neck, idly run my fingers through his hair. Something springs onto my hand.
There’s been an epidemic at his school. I look at it more closely. A crumb from last night’s blueberry muffin.
“Gotta pee, dad.”
He runs off, dropping his pants as he goes.
“Make sure you open your eyes.”
As I move to the kitchen, I cross the open bathroom door and see him, head thrown back, eyes closed as he hits the toilet with a full night’s accumulation.
“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh……” he says. Total satisfaction. I don’t look too closely at the accuracy of the fire hose.
Choose your battles, I say to myself.
As I prepare our breakfast and his lunch, I make mental notes: last juice box, okay on bread for tomorrow, out of coffee, almost out of cereal, definitely out of lunch meats.
He comes rushing in, wiping his hands on his pants. I say nothing. Choose your battles, I remind myself.
“Dad, you know what sucks?”
Do I ever!!
“No, what sucks?”
“That we, I mean, me, I’m going to have to wear long sleeves on the rides. Because it’s cold now.”
“The scary ones that they like, like …” He hops on the spot in the irritated impossibility of finding the right words.
He looks like a writer on a bad day. Like me on most days.
“We have to go, and stay up until, uhm, until at least 11 o’clock. You know.”
I stand by the moka coffee pot which is just starting to hiss on the stove. Still minutes away from kick-starting my brain. Noah has no such issue. He went from sleep to 100 mph in one urination.
“Dad? We get to ride on the new ride that they always like open every year, yeah we get to ride it first, you know.”
The coffee is rising. Like Reagan in the morning…
“Noah, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I already told you dad. The special Halloween night at La Ronde. Yeah, they have special freaky scary rides just for Halloween and then you get to be the first that goes on the new ride for the next year. Cool, huh? But you have to stay late, or else, it’s not like freaky scary enough.”
Wooouuuaaaaaaaahhhhh! The coffee expresses itself as it pushes up into the pot. I preemptively pour myself the first milliliters.
“I don’t know why dad. I don’t know why it feels so good to feel so scared.”
I sip the kahwa. Ah yes!
“It’s exciting because you feel really alive when you’re at risk.”
“Yeah, that’s it dad. You’re all excited because something bad could happen and you could like even die but then you don’t.”
“Yup.” You don’t die.
So who exactly was I mopping the floor for?
“Dad, you know that nobody ever died doing the rides at La Ronde. Yeah, so it’s scary, but good scary because you scream and you freak and then you laugh because you want to start over.”
I throw down the mop, fling open the door, and….
…wake up to a new day, much like any other, but then again, who knows?
Freaky, scary, but you don’t die and then you laugh and start over.
“Dad, I’m hungry.”
“Yeah, me too.”