“Dad’s home!” I announce more for my benefit then theirs. The kids know to watch the clock and it’s now 2:50. I’m the one that has to keep an eye on the time and if I’m not careful, my private “wine” down time last longer than it should, which defeats the purpose of the “wine down.” Dad’s car is usually in the driveway by 3:15 the latest, so way before the three the boys have shut down, turned off, and put away the contraband: electronic devices they aren’t supposed to be playing with during the week and switched the YouTube gaming channel to something their father will not gripe about. If the boys are caught doing any of these things when they shouldn’t be, they’ll lose precious time on their beloved devices. Yeah they know, I know-I’m a sucker but I benefit from this arrangement because as long as they’re preoccupied with Roblox and ninja/chefs, they aren’t harassing me.
If/when the boys are punished for using their devices beyond designated playtimes or watching shows they shouldn’t, I’ll accept the blame. And yes, perhaps their dad is right when he says I’m cutting his legs out from beneath him when we don’t represent as a unified front when it comes to discipline. I know I’m not winning any mother-of-the-year awards, and yeah, I do feel guilty when they’re punished for their s because we all have to endure the aftermath. What can I say? I know, it’s no excuse but I never signed up for this and honey, If it makes you feel any better the boys have zero respect for my authority. So there’s that.
The Wine Down
Of course, the kids aren’t the only subversives in the household. Every weekday, after the boys help me with their homework, I put tomorrow’s lunch together, prepare dinner, and wash up, it’s “wine down” time. At about 3:00, I flit back and forth between the foyer window and my makeshift liquor store to refill my glass. I stand there, wine glass in hand, peering through the curtains, anticipating his CRV to reverse into the driveway any minute now. When I see the rear lights of the CRV come on as he breaks and begins to back up, it gives me just enough time to dump (or gulp) the rest of the wine in the glass, rinse it out, put it back on the shelf. Return to mommying. You may be asking yourself why I don’t use disposable cups know like the infamous red Solo cups, which if you ask me are just as conspicuous as the wine glass-everybody knows it’s not juice in there-if I need to dispose of my contraband in a hurry-well, I don’t know. I suppose I’m trying to maintain some semblance of dignity, which seems to be one of the last things I can hold onto lately.
Thoughts From a Park Bench
It’s not just playgroups, and it’s not just perfectly blown out hair and flawless make-up. I’m aware I’m projecting here, but it’s like every mom in this park is parading her sexuality, which in addition to once perky breasts and tight, toned thighs, I have also lost.
I sit on this park bench and sip from my water bottle filled with “lemonade” watching moms barely clothed, chasing after their kids (and what I imagine they hope are single dads) while kids run, shout and play wrapt in the bliss of childish ignorance; they possess none of the maddening thoughts a grown-up mind like mine, consistently perseverates on: worry, fear, regret and insecurity. This is what’s become of me. Sitting on park benches sipping “lemonade” and bemoaning my post-pregnancy life and body. I sit here and stare enviously at confident mom’s wearing tights, tight jeans, tight shorts, crop tops, whether they should be or not-flaunting their assets. They don’t feel the need to wear high-waisted mom jeans, or over-sized shirts like I do to cover their flab, which is as much a result of 2pm happy hours, as it is age, hormones and unhappiness. It’s been so long since anybody noticed I had assets…
The sun beats down on my back (wearing layers of clothing in this oppressive heat doesn’t help) and I’m sitting alone on this bench, drenched in sweat. I watch my children interact with the other kids on the playground. I sit and watch and think about the lives they may lead. Who they will become in spite of me.
You can always tell from watching kids play, the ones who will go on to become lawyers, doctors or captains of industry because before any game is played, they insist upon establishing rules. Then there are the rule breakers. The trailblazers: the girls and boys who are told they can’t play because they are a boy or a girl or because they are too short, too tall, too black, too white, too fat, too skinny. They become ground-breaking scientists, formidable athletes, the engineers who reinvent they world by smashing ceilings and kicking down the barriers meant to keep them stuck.
Like I am. I know I don’t have to be but…
Here I sit on a park bench contemplating what’s become of me. I watch my children play and I envy their youth. I envy their present. I envy their relentlessness. I envy their childish joie de vivre and their selflessness. I envy their future…
I should have been the example that my children have set for me.
When we met, I didn’t really get on with him. He was a mouth breather-literally. His desk was directly behind mine I could never concentrate on working because his breathing was loud and heavy. It annoyed the shit out of me. Should have been a warning of what sleeping next to him might have been like and yet…
I know he wasn’t fond of me either. I rarely showed up to work. He was the consummate professional. He wasn’t on time, he was always early. Never late, never absent. He had the nerve to wear a shirt and tie every day-even on casual Fridays, which I found pretentious. We counseled teenagers for Pete’s sake. It’s like he had something to prove. He was self-righteous, whatever we debated, he always had to be right. Always had to have the last word. But that’s not why I hated him.
He was unlike any man I had ever dated, or thought I would.
The loathing towards him began to grow as I got to know him. As I began to love him. Before him everything in my life was predictable, comfortable. The current flowed the way it was supposed to. The way I expected it to. I knew who I was, what I wanted and where I was going-until I met him and the current changed direction swiftly knocking me off course.
Suffice to say, not showing up to work eventually caught up with me and I lost my job. Well, I didn’t actually lose it-I knew where it was. I was asked not to come back, which was fine with me. I was fed up providing services and counseling obstinate kids who clearly didn’t want (or need) my help. In their short 14-16 years on this planet, they sure as hell knew a lot more about life than I did. They should have been counseling me.
THE BACK STORY
I don’t know what I was expecting, or how long I’d be able to keep it from my roommate or my landlord that I’d lost my job and couldn’t afford the rent. I was already a month behind and there were no job prospects.
I suppose I was in denial, figuring that by the time things got really bad, I’d already be working and on my way to fixing my arrears. One month turned into two, two became three and…
Roderick, my landlord, also known as “Hot Roddy” as we began to refer to him. Allegedly back in his day, he was a big name in the porn industry. At least that’s how he liked to introduce himself to guests at the parties he’d been invited to by us as a courtesy, which he appreciated, since he fixed minor issues in our apartment without charging us. After month three, the gig was up and Hot Roddy had no choice but tell my roommate he was getting stiffed on half of the rent. At first, I was pissed. How dare Roderick betray me, especially since I’d gone to great lengths to keep his pervy secrets, many of which involved petit crime.
One Saturday afternoon after a workout at the gym, I strained my back. By the time I got off the bus to come home, the pain was unbearable. I could barely walk up the street let alone up the stairs to my apartment. My roommate wasn’t home at the time, so I called Roddy to let me in. He ran me a warm bath with some epsom salt, and since I couldn’t stand straight, he had to help me undress and get into the tub. I thought on account that I’d let him see me naked, it might count for something and he might give me a break.
He kept his eyes shut the entire time.
I even did him a solid once by allowing him to set me up with his best friend Jeff, who looked remarkably like Donald Fagan from Steely Dan. Jeff was at least 20 years older than me at the time. I never understood how people could hate on Steely Dan, I kept Doctor Wu on constant repeat. After watching “Hot Roddy” and Jeff in action, I got it. Roderick was Walter Becker to Jeff’s Donald Fagan. They were best friends and they made a formidable team, I’m sure, but they were rivals, each trying to outperform the other. I imagined them both drunk at a seedy dive selling each other out as they competed for the affections of a platinum blonde, big-boobed ex-groupie.
I’m convinced that Roderick mentioned my Jamaican heritage to Jeff, who thought it would be a grand gesture to present me with a brown, hairy coconut, the size of a bowling ball on our first date. He took m to Coney Island-no Nathan’s. We walked up and down the boardwalk-in the rain. He bitched about his ex-wife and alimony the entire time, which explains why we didn’t eat? Anyway, the coconut was confusing but I chalked it up to his age-maybe back in his day, that’s what men brought in lieu of flowers or a bottle of wine? My roommate noticed the coconut on the kitchen counter when she came home and inquired about it. I told her Jeff brought it for me. She told me “coconut” was a pejorative term to describe West Indians. I’d never heard that before.
I never saw Jeff again, and while I blame Hot Roddy for an hour of my life I can never get back, and possibly ruining Steely Dan for me, I cannot blame him for betraying me and telling my roommate about the rent situation. He had to make a living.
After my roommate found out how much I owed (and couldn’t pay right away) she had no choice but to cut me loose and find a roommate who could.
Prodigal Granddaughter Returns
“How could you, knowing what I go through with my own tenants?” Grandma is furious on the telephone. “You must leave now before you owe another month!”
I was able to pay-Grandma paid-last month’s rent. I promised Hot Roddy and my roommate that I would begin paying the back rent as soon as I was working. I was good for it, and they had Grandma’s phone number and address-they could track me down if they needed to.
The room I returned to was not the one I left. When I lived there, the carpet, was pale yellow, thin and mangy and it barely covered the entire floor. It had been replaced by velvety plush, carpet in a wine color, wall to wall. Grandma had literally rolled the red carpet out for my prodigal return.
“Don’t worry mi chile,” she said, in her thick Kingstonian accent, which while scolding me, also gave me comfort. My Jamaican Grandma always came to my rescue, whether I deserved it or not. “If is only one banana mi have, we split it in two. God will make a way.”
And so, when he called my Grandma’s house looking for me, I thought He had…