Sunday, March 25, 2012

Writing somewhere else now. . .

Gonna give its day in court.

Check there for the new stuff. Stay here for the old stuff.

Check. . . and stay! See?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last cigarette

I take a hard seat on a wooden bench just outside the front door, a cup for the day's first customer in my right hand, an unlit cigarette in my left. I don't know what time it is exactly but it's evidently a minute or two past whenever most coffee shops open. While a quick glance at my watch could settle the matter, I can't muster the energy. A dozen blocks behind me is the hospital, my wife and our newborn baby. A dozen blocks in front is our two-year-old, at home, waiting with the sitter. I do nothing for about four seconds - just sit there - holding my coffee and my smoke with my mouth no doubt hanging open just enough, my eyelids the perfect amount of heavy, to paint the picture of a man going on no sleep. When my hard-earned four seconds of rest have passed I proceed to spring into action and light the cigarette in a deliberate, almost ceremonial fashion, one strange to anyone who may have been watching this, up until now, lethargic man from across the street. I take a drag and allow my back to find the bench behind me. . .

I am the father of two little girls. More than anything else that's what I am. In terms of what I do and how I do it, although I may not even be conscious of it while I do it, it's done largely for the little girls. Goals, aspirations, not to mention the inevitable twists and turns that are life, remain, but it's safe to say whatever can be dubbed my legacy is set with these little girls. And today that's a notion that's more fortunate than tragic.

So I am blessed. The last cigarette tastes good and for that I am blessed as well. She had to know. Coming home from work making sure the pack was shoved deep inside the coat pocket, always conscious of the smell on the nights I dared a kiss hello. She knew and she held her tongue - perhaps waiting for the perfect moment of accusation, or perhaps resigning to her husband's supposedly secret vice. Likely the former, but nevertheless I got to hand it to her. She held her tongue because I am a good father, a good husband. Because that's what we do. We hold our tongues. And today that's a notion more fortunate than tragic.

So I am lucky. And this last cigarette tastes fantastic and for that I am lucky as well. For what is a final smoke if not one of whole satisfaction - from suck to blow. Shit. I could have been hit by a car any one of a number of times, from the day long ago when I first dared crossing a street, to the walk from the hospital to this very bench where I've crossed twelve streets if I've crossed one. The cars have all spared me. Death has spared me and led me to this day, this day where I celebrate my little girls with this last cigarette.

I wipe tired tears from my face and stand up. I stretch my neck, my back, close my eyes to the sun and force myself to fight the sleep and open them again. A final look at the smoldering butt in my hand before I let it fall to the sidewalk and kill it with the bottom of my shoe. I debate leaving the rest of the pack on the bench where someone else can claim it but choose the finality that is the gesture of flipping $5 worth of nicotine into the trash can on the corner. As I resume my journey home to tell my daughter that she's a big sister my lungs compensate for the sudden jolt back into action and I can't help but notice that my breaths already feel bigger, cleaner. They puff my chest as I cross the street and I text my wife that I love her and that we are making it on our own.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shaking babies

It's no surprise that the first several hours after a man's first child is born are a whirlwind of sorts. In retrospect, it's really nothing more than a lot of standing, worrying, not sleeping, and attempting to cherish; but at the time, there's this overarching trepidation that you should be doing more - that you should be able to assist with the breast feeding somehow, that there should be an intelligent question you have for the nurse, that you are currently fucking this up big time and you should know better not to be.

This feeling of utter inadequacy lasts until you get your new family out of the hospital and back to your place - away from the doctors and nurses who have witnessed the bumbling husband a thousand times to the stronghold you've spent months creating; with safety gates strategically placed in the doorways you felt would be both effective and convenient, with the crib you built using your brand new socket wrench.

Of course, before you get back to home base, you don't know this. The hours before wife and baby are discharged are fading fast and you still feel as helpless as the kid whose life depends on you. Luckily there's an instructional video or sorts they make all first time parents watch that has the unintended effect of assuring you things aren't as dire as they seem.

The video is about ten minutes long and can be summed up as follows; DO NOT SHAKE YOUR BABY. It shows a variety of poorly performed reenactments of frustrated fathers ill-equipped to deal with crying newborns. With no other foreseeable course of action they feel compelled to shake their babies until they shut up, presumably via broken necks or irreparable brain damage. As alternatives to attempted murder the video offers numerous suggestions for dealing with impending rage, ranging from exercising to watching television. Perhaps it's because you're sleep deprived, but you'll find this video more hilarious than educational. Hilarious in the same way that a tense situation can be diffused with the perfect inappropriate comment. You may find yourself laughing out loud as all of the sudden the wide spectrum of daddy skills becomes evident and you know for the first time you're not going to totally suck at it. Because while you may very well be in over your head a bit with the breast pumps, blanket wrapping techniques, and the bottle temperature wrist test, at least you're not the guy in the video frantically doing push-ups in front of a blaring television why his newborn daughter screams nearby, in need of a diaper change.

At least not today.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The vial

[Man hands over small wrapped box across candlelit dinner table]

MAN: Happy Valentines' Day.

WIFE: Why thank you, sweetheart!

M: Open it.

[Wife opens gift]

W: It's beautiful! What is it?

M: Why it's a necklace of course. Do you like it?

W: It's very pretty. What's this at the bottom though?

M: That's what makes it so special. It's a small vial.

W: A vial?

M: Yeah, there's a few tiny drops of my blood in there. You know, to symbolize how we're one, how we're with each other wherever we go. One heart. One blood. Something like that. I got the idea from Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie.

W: Uh huh. But it's not real blood, is it?

M: Of course it is. A little bit of bona fide B positive from your loving husband. Because I love you so much.

W: What did you do? Prick your finger or something?

M: Umm. . . No. . . That didn't occur to me at the time. I suppose that would've been a lot easier than the route I took. Anyway, what do you think? Try it on!

W: I don't know.

M: What? Don't be silly. Strap that bad boy on! Let's see how it looks!

W: Don't get me wrong. I think it's a beautiful sentiment. And I love you. But don't you think it's a tad bit, I don't know. . . unsanitary. . . wearing a vial of blood around my neck throughout the day? I mean, I teach kindergarten. There are health codes. Kids are inquisitive.

M: C'mon. It's not AIDS blood from some random guy off the street. It's the life force of your husband, the man you love, the man you've been doing a lot more unsanitary things with for over ten years.

W: [speechless]

M: I mean doinking. . . or sex. . . or whatever. I mean, my point is we've been screwing for a long time and all I'm saying is one might conceivably construe that the act of coitus itself is far more unsanitary than wearing a small, tightly sealed, vial of blood around one's neck.

W: (sarcastically) Oh! Great! So draping myself in blood is slightly less disgusting than sleeping with my husband. Sense you put in that way, can you help me with the clasp?

M: So you're not going to try it on?

W: No. I don't think I am. It's creepy.

M: (angry now) Well that's just great. I guess I'll just take them both back then. Hopefully I still have the receipt. I'll exchange them for the old V-day standbys; a fucking pair of slippers or a gift certificate for a god damned back massage. Pardon me for trying to spice things up.

W: What do you mean 'take them both back'?

M: I got a matching one, OK? I thought it would be cool if we both had cute little vial of blood necklaces. You know, the ultimate expression of unity or some shit.

W: But why would you wear your own blood around your neck?

M: I wouldn't. I mean, I'm not. You wear my blood and I wear yours.

W: Wait. Where did you get my blood?

[long awkward pause]

M: I don't see what that has to do with anything.

W: Oh my god. This isn't happening.

M: You know what? Forget it. I can see now this was a bad idea. I'll just put both the blood vials back in my pocket here and we'll pretend it never happened. Let's just get some dessert, finish our wine, and head home.

W: I'm not hungry.

M: Fine. I'll get the check. . . We're still on for sex tonight though, right?