Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mother

I held my son in both arms and climbed the steps carefully.

A monsoon storm had showered the exterior stairwell beneath my wife’s apartment. The Sun had come out again, furious and brilliant in the Phoenix sky, but the hot concrete risers were slick and dripping still.

The steaming aroma of rain enveloped us as I freed one hand and knocked.

“Hi,” she said after opening the door, staring at us blankly. For a moment I think she really didn’t know who we were. Her dull blue eyes lay placidly at the bottom of black mascara pits that contrasted starkly with the pale skin of her face. She was still trying to look like Avril Lavigne but wasn’t afraid of admitting it anymore. As she neared twenty-five, my wife had stopped worrying about selling-out and become much more strategic when it came to her music. She was desperate for someone to notice her.

“Come in,” she finally added, giving us a close-lipped smile as she backed away, opening the door.

I carried our son into her apartment. It was still a mess. There was a kaleidoscopic odor of weed, pizza and beer. Rings of congealed fluids overlapped one another on her coffee table. Amps, a guitar and a number of audio devices I couldn’t name populated the floor. The kitchenette was a wasteland of boxes, paper and plastic bags and extra large drink cups.

I sat down on her couch amid cast-off clothes and food wrappers and tried to keep the boy on my lap but he wriggled his way to the floor. I reluctantly loosened my grip on him. She sat at the other end of the couch and watched as he staggered about on the legs he had discovered since his mother had moved out to focus on her music.

I hate divorce. I hate it like a man dying of thirst hates the desert. I won’t look the word up in the dictionary. I won’t seek it’s etymology. I am at war with divorce and all it’s allies: loneliness, despair, depression, anxiety, fear.

“So what’s up?” She asked. As if we had never slept together. As if I didn’t know that, besides eyelashes, eyebrows and her multi-colored tresses she was otherwise hairless, plucking, nairing, shaving and waxing it all away, leaving only the strange, darkening caesarean scar to mar her ivory flesh.

“You said you would take him to the park today.”

She covered her face with her hands, then removed them.

“I forgot.”

I was already nodding with comprehension, even sympathy. I watched the boy discover an empty outlet behind an amp. Knowing what would happen, I rose and pre-emptively removed him. He protested with a half-hearted cry before I set him down near his mother.

They stared at one another. She reached out to take him and he sagged into her arms. She put him on one knee, whispered things I couldn’t hear well enough to understand. The boy stared out at the room, finger in his bubbling mouth. She put him down and he used the coffee table for balance as he walked back to me.

At night, I sleep with the boy between myself and the wall, for fear he might rise silently in the night and hurt himself.

“Can I use your bathroom?”

“Sure!” She blurted.

As I entered the bathroom I shot a glance through the open doorway to her bedroom. The image of another man’s underwear, draped across the corner of the bed, stayed with me as I closed the door behind me. It floated before my eyes as I stood unloading into her noisome toilet, like a ghost-Sun burned onto the retinas of a man who has tried to see the nearest star.

Through the door I could hear her talking to him. The monologue sounded like the female half of a first-date conversation. Once I heard her rush to prevent an accident, and his subsequent wails of disappointment.

There was no soap so I rubbed my hands vigorously under warm water.


I prepare all his bottles and must keep my hands clean.


I came out of the bathroom and asked her about the underwear.

Her hands went to her face again, then back to her lap. She stared at the ground and twisted one of those spiked leather bracelets around her wrist, like she was winding herself up.

I heard the door shut before I even reached the stairs. My son clung to me. I descended carefully, the steps were still wet. When we reached the bottom I realized that I was clinging to him as well.