I sometimes catch short videos of him posted on social media. They last no more than a few seconds but I have a tendency to let them auto play over and over on my feed before I move on. I study his body movement and watch his facial expressions as the footage repeats itself, but I can never find what I’m looking for. He’s riding a skateboard in the latest clip and he doesn’t even mind that she’s there, recording. She gets to be so close to him as he lifts his legs to maneuver his way over the railing. Close enough that when his skateboard hits the ground, she can reach out and touch him as he zooms right past her, smiling. She’s so proud of him and he knows it. It’s all on film. Her love. His love. It’s all captured in a 9 second video.
And I’m jealous.
So jealous that I close my Facebook app and open up YouTube to search for thug life animal videos because cats and dogs worthy of gold chains, sunglasses, and blunts make me happy. Unfortunately they also remind me of Alex. Thug life is his thing now. At least that’s what I see when I look at him. Haircuts with a tail in the back, sagging jeans, rap music, the asshole way he uses the word “ain’t” instead of isn’t. A few weeks back a family member sent me a picture of him all decked out in his Nike gear smoking a blunt. It wasn’t a selfie but he was fully aware of what he was doing when he posted it. To make matters worse, it was taken in front of our house. Gotta admit, at least it was real – not some phony filtered bullshit.
This is my mind starting not to care as much as I used to. Even the gold chain wearing dog on my screen is powerless against my immeasurable discontent.
He leaves all of the time now.
In fear that I won’t see him for days, he’s not allowed to throw out the trash anymore. Or do yard work. Or run to the store for a can of tomato sauce. Or sit on the front porch with his friends. Or walk out any one of our doors for any reason. But school starts in a few weeks and I’m already thinking the worst.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Getting away for a minute, or an hour. I haven't made up my mind yet.”
“We should get a chair for you so you’re not sitting on the stairs.”
“The stairs are fine. I’m fine. I’ll be in a minute. Or, an hour.”
“Alex leave again?”
“He wasn’t in his room the last time I checked so I’m assuming he escaped through the sewer drain. Maybe he’s stuck in a pile of shit right now and can’t free himself because he didn’t have the fucking decency to just tell us where the fuck he was going. Or, maybe he climbed out of his bedroom window, slipped off the roof and broke his leg. He’s probably in the backyard right now calling one of his homie’s for help. I’ll go check after I finish my cigarette.”
“You know, maybe you shouldn’t smoke this early.”
“And you’re not my dad, you’re my husband, so maybe you shouldn’t tell me what to do.”
“I’ll be inside.”
“And I’ll be out here.”
There is definitely hate in me when I’m around him. More than there should be for any one person. Years and years of drama and anger and bullshit have turned me cold, and secretly, I don’t try to suppress it when he's near me. I’m not this way all of the time because of the kids, but when we’re alone, I say what I feel. Maybe that’s why I’m sitting here right now, alone.
“Mama, are you coming in?”
I try to hide my cigarette but the smoke slowly dances its way into the air.
“Just give me five more minutes, okay? Mama is not finished taking her break.”
“Can I come outside and sit with you?” His head is poking out enough for me to notice he has his Ninja Turtle robe on over his pajamas.
“Of course, but just give me five minutes, okay? Did you eat something?”
“Okay. Let me get my shoes on!”
“Did you eat som---“
The front door slams shut and the entire house shakes. One of these days this porch is going to collapse on me while I’m taking one of my “breaks”. I should tell the landlord to get an estimate and fix it but we’re not supposed to have animals in the house according to our lease. And I need my animals as much as I need air in my lungs.
I take one last drag of my cigarette, put it under my shoe to kill it, and then walk it over to the curb. Hiding the evidence and lying make the world go round, at least in my neck of the woods.
“Can I ride my bike?”
He’s still in his robe and pajamas but at least he opted for gym shoes rather than his cowboy boots this time.
“Did you eat something?”
“Then you can’t ride your bike. You have to fill up your belly first.”
“Please! Only two times, I promise! PLEEEASE!”
I’m a sucker for puppy dog eyes and baby teeth so I agree.
“But only two times.”
I hold up my phone and hit the Record button as he makes his way up the sidewalk to the fire hydrant at the end of our block. Billy has only been in our lives for 4 years but he sees all and knows too much already. Too bad he didn’t get to meet me before I was this way. Broken, angry, fucked in the head. But through his glasses I can see the love and innocence in his eyes looking back at me. For everything I am he still loves me. All of my kids do. Alex does too, I think.
I sit back down on my step and watch him closely. I study his body movement and watch his facial expressions as he maneuvers his bike back to the direction of the house. He hasn’t quite gotten the hang of turning the bike without jumping off of it yet so watching him struggle makes me smile and giggle. He waves to my phone as he passes me by.
“Thank you for letting me ride my bike, mama. Can you make some pancakes now?”
“Sure, but go wash up first. I'll be in in a minute.”
The door slams again and I close my eyes waiting for the sky to fall on top of me. Nope…still here.
I wonder how long he’ll be gone this time. It’s Sunday which means I’ll have to go to work again not knowing where he is. I’ll just have to sit there, at my desk, and try to avoid all human contact for the entire 7.5 hour stint pretending everything is okay. For me, faking it also makes the world go round.
I replay the video of Billy in all his Ninja Turtle robe wearing glory. I’m so proud of him and he knows it. My love. His love. It’s all on film. It’s all captured in a 29 second video. Am I sure I want to delete?
Before I open the door I look back. Maybe it won’t hurt as much if I start keeping my distance now. After all, you can only get hurt if you allow yourself to get too close. I mean, there is only so many times a person can be let down before they decide enough is enough. Maybe that’s the reason Alex keeps leaving.
Maybe that’s the reason I want to leave.
Chapter Three -- Coming Soon
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Filed under: Parenting