I have my back to the door, but I hear him despite Adele roaring her despair in my headphones. I’ve been staring out the window, writing. Yes, yes, staring out the window is writing, even if the fingers aren’t moving across the keyboard. Most of my writing happens inside the walls of my being. Occasionally, some of it overflows into shareable words.
Noah comes up to within a few inches of my back. I can feel his question.
Today is Monday. Two days left before the school year starts. He’s bored. I’m desperate. Wild horses run through me. So difficult to remember why I need to write except that when I don’t I feel worse.
Barely enough of a reason.
I slip my headphones off.
He rubs his head against mine. Adults without children would scream “emotional manipulation, he wants something.”
Parents just scream.
Of course, he wants something. But the affection is real and his need to be reassured that it’s okay to want something even if he doesn’t get it, is also real.
Complex. And human. And fragile.And howlingly difficult to navigate.
“Are you working well, dad?”
Work? Oh, you mean my writing. I feel like a fraud, calling this work. I imagine the walls of my room blasting away, leaving me on a chair in midair with the blank screen.
“I’m trying, Noah.”
Of course if you gave me the hour in solitary that I’ve been asking for, something useful might actually happen.
‘The answer is no, Noah.”
“Whaaa……I didn’t even ask you anything.”
I feel like the guy on a game show that jumped the buzzer before the question Will he or will he not blow the answer?
“You were about to ask me for my IPhone so you could play.”
Noah looks sheepish. He’s still small enough that we’re at the same height only when I’m sitting and he’s standing.
Game show guy jumps in victory in my head, before he’s blown away by my rage at having to defend my shrunken space when I’m not even sure it’s worth it.
“Noah, I told you last night, you’re becoming addicted to TV, Nintendo, computer, Iphone to the point that you no longer know how to use your brain to read, write, draw.”
“No, no. I need you to step out of the room, close my door and go get busy or bored, it’s up to you. But find something to do that reminds you you have a brain.”
Oh no! The slack jawed, “how can you be such an ass, dad” look… and he’s not leaving.
Waiting for a miracle? Like father, like son?
I wave him away and turn back to my screen. I crank the music to loud in my headphones. Blast my eardrums. Semi-deafness might actually improve my cohabitation skills. I wouldn’t hear the sigh and the door closing noisily behind me.
So, what is it exactly that is so important that I need ‘my space’? I sound like the juvenile ass I am.
The little old lady with the bitchy Pekingese across the street, comes out to sweep her balcony. She does it every morning, even though nobody ever dirties her entrance.
I write every morning even though it makes no sense.
A shimmering promise of an idea lifts in my mind as I watch the eddies of dust raised by her broom. There was dirt after all.
Suddenly, our fat black cat jumps on the sill outside my window. We’re three floors up, yet she shows no concern on the narrow ledge. She’s more afraid of me.Well, sort of.
“What the hell do you want now?”
She slips through the open window, throws me a look before rushing to my closed door to be let out.
I let the bitch out. Damn that’s not even the right word! She’s female all right, but not a bloody dog. What was the right term, again? I remember knowing it.
I step out of my room. There is Noah lying down in front of the TV. The balcony door is closed. Which is why the cat was forced through my window.
The TV is so loud, he doesn’t hear. It’s Sccoby-doo. An episode I’ve seen him watch many times already.
“NOAH!” He jumps.
“Dad, you scared me. No need to scream like that.”
“I told you. No TV. And you closed the balcony door so the cat had to come in my room and bug me.”
“I didn’t think of it.”
“Because your brain has liquefied and poured into your underwear. Turn the damn thing off.”
He does so, so slowly, so reluctantly that if I was in any way a violent type, he would become a punching ball.
“Since, you have no idea how to entertain yourself, I will keep you busy. First, you take a shower. Then you clean up your room. And only when that is finished can you come see me. Is that clear?”
That look again! Tell you, man, this requires self-control beyond anything I’ve experienced.
“IS IT CLEAR?”
“Yeeeeeesssssss.” Dripping with ill will.
I step back into my room before I charge him.
Back at my window, the old lady has finished her job. Wish I could say the same. My cursor is blinking on an unfinished sentence. I erase the damn thing.
Had no promise anyways.
I look to my left. Shit. I didn’t mail the rent check. I chase the thought away. Must make space for that elusive brilliance.
The door behind me opens.
Noah walks in.
“Where do I put these, dad?”
He holds up a handful of hangers. The ones that hang on the shower rod, ready to take the clothes that come from the washer.
Adults without parents would say that he’s looking for trouble. That this needs to be dealt with once and for all.
Once is never for all with a kid. It’s over and over and over until they’re old enough to fuck off for good.
“Where do hangers generally hang?”
“And how many bloody closets are there outside of my room?
“My brain is my brain, to be used, now and then, for my own thoughts. You have a brain of your own, or at least you did at birth. So use it. NOW. And don’t you dare bother me again. When I step out of this room is when you can talk to me. Not before. Now, get out!”
The little &%?$@ backs out so he can stare me down for longer. The door bangs shut.
I turn back to the screen.The cat has snuck into my room and is hiding under my desk.
Queen! That’s the term for a female cat. Where’s a guillotine when you need one?
I resist the urge to kick her.