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Depression Hates Movement

“Depression hates movement,” Toni says. Her feet are in insensible shoes, so I imagine she’s already done her movement, and is therefore elevated beyond an otherwise nadir. I, however, am exhausted, and “Exhaustion hates movement, too.” For different reasons. Toni’s got it together, whereas I can take a shopping trip using the bags beneath my eyes.

Man, I gotta walk two miles home uphill from the Alano cuz my phone is dead and I can’t Lyft. Save for a few hours of Nod here and there, I’ve been up for the better part of three days, and damn if I hafta walk home again, my shoes not as sensible as Toni’s, my heels starting to chafe. It is, however, a gorgeous day, so—sigh—I’ll take it with sugar. It has rained and the wind has oscillated; the sky is clean.

Marcelino at the mechanic’s shop greets me with monkey-grease hands: “I’m so sorry, the machinist called in sick again and I so busy. I no get to your car yet.” I tell him not to worry about it because I’m doing ok otherwise—“Hey, life on life’s terms, Marcelino!—and he veritably lays a head on my shoulder. “Tank you fr your compassion.” How it must suck to be yelled at by so many car-owners demanding the head gasket be done tomorrow, and whaddya mean it’s $1200?! These are things beyond his control, so I don’t fret, though I would like my Bug back please—it has a way of keeping me calm. Marcelino, though? He’s survived cancer and lets his guys grill carne asada outside the garage on Fridays with a couple of beers, neither of which he partakes in because of his heart, and he’s been our trusted mechanic for years. Wouldn’t give him up despite the delay on the car. I can wait.

Except I’m tired. And there are four things to be watchful of: Hunger. Tiredness. Loneliness. Anger. Hunger plus Anger=HA! You’re gonna have a rough night; Tiredness plus Anger=TA! As in ta-da, you’re at your most vulnerable, and last this happened, I think Saturday, I almost got in a fight with a moving vehicle while walking back from the Club. I use the HALT method with Cayde: are you too tired from last night’s sleepover to be playing that video game responsibly? Are you too angry that the Wifi is lagging? Maybe take a break. Let’s play some cards instead.

Depression hates movement; exhaustion, too. Still, ‘perseverance’ is my word of the year, so I persist, and with all obstinancy I get home and finally wrestle sleep to bed.

 

 

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Hygge Home

hyggeWe’re walking back from the corner store, me and Cayde, and remark that the house next to the avenue brewhouse is being sold, which is of no surprise because living next to that kind of traffic and clamor and smoke must be hell on the serenity, not to mention that Trivia Night is of a volume undialable on the TV set. Mixing potent potables and the category named for them is a noisy affair; we hear the huzzahs a block and a half away and, really, maybe it’s of some encouragement that the pursuit of knowledge should rally such raucousness, but try living next to it: you’d probably wish for Team Solitaire Night instead, or Silent Charades Tuesday.

I’ll miss these neighbors, actually, and not because I know them but rather I know their cats, which are gargantuan toms that roam the neighborhood with aplomb, one and a half stone apiece, and they lend the neighborhood a sense of proportion. They make the small houses look their size as the felines sit fat cat on the various porch stoops, furry paperweights.

We live in a neighborhood of pre-War—meaning the first one—bungalows, none exceeding 1000 square feet, Craftsman by design if not Spanish. ‘Quaint’ and ‘charming’ are words used in the Classifieds, because these houses can’t be sold by an exaggerated number of rooms—5 ½ bedrooms! 2 ¾ baths! Nothing in our small corner of North Park is sporting more than 3 beds and a toilet; hell, our bathroom is a mid-century add-on. What must have been the old WC is now Cayden’s den, which barely houses his desk and all his Lego StarWars models. And the kids have to share a room and sleep in a bunk bed, my closet is in the kids’ room whereas Jenn duchesses the master closet, but we love it.

“Daddy,” Cayden asks as we pass the ‘For Sale’ sign, “What’s your dream house?” and I am quick to answer.

“Nothing too big. Then I’d have to fill it with stuff I don’t need nor want.”

Cayde is as quick to reply: “Me neither. I just want, like, a den with maybe a television,” and he goes on to describe a house of maybe 200 sq. foot proportion, like one of those mini-cabins you see at trade shows, else an Airstream he could tow around with a modicum of hp.

Cayde is my little goldfish. Goldfish are indeterminate growers, meaning they grow until they die, but generally they develop to fit the size of their tanks. And, Jenn and I think, maybe, that Cayden has grown to fit our house, that he really doesn’t think or want in larger proportion than what he’s used to. Sure he’s been to larger, more grandiose abodes, but they’ve never inspired money-lust in him, or an undue Veruca Salt desire for square footage. No house on the hill for Cayden. He’d rather a house in the valley. One, preferably with his brother, and maybe still with bunk beds.

It shows in how Cayden nests, and it’s always fun tucking him in because it’s hard to determine where Cayde ends and the blankets begin. He has no less than six throws on his bed and were he not eleven and checking everyday to see if he’s sprouted an armpit hair overnight, he’d probably still have a menagerie of stuffies, too. His two favorite Christmas presents—besides the Playstation—were an electric blanket and a whimsical unicorn onesie which he’ll often don in the nighttime, and he wears this to be absurd, for one, but, two, to fulfill I think, his natural cozying instinct. I used to cocoon myself in blankets as a kid, just shy of needing a bed snorkel, and Cayden does the same.

Hygge is the Danish practice of cozying up a house, and our haven is pure hygge: overstuffed living room, texture, hearth: everything to add intimacy to a space. There are books and candles and cast-iron pans; guitars and obliviously sleeping cats; quilts and throws and saffron pillows. My wife has done most the decorating and she’d done so fantastically, to where Cayden is the happy goldfish, and where I myself want nothing more than the humble space we already have.

“I think, Daddy,” Cayden says as we make our way home, bounty from the Mom n’ Pop pendulum-swinging from our respective wrists. We pass one of the gigantic toms who is splayed out and seemingly soaking up half the sun’s energy. “I think our house is just the right size.”

“We also don’t have to live next to the brewpub, so there’s that.” The ‘For Sale’ is bright pink, loud as the clamor next door where there is the incessant sound of clinking glass and sports on the television.

And when all you want is a right-sized life, it’s good to start with a right-sized house.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Proof of Comfort

chairIn the back alley, a lady is skinning a discarded leather chair as if it were a felled leopard, albeit a pink one, with an X-acto knife and a determination to beat the rain which is fast coming. I wonder what she plans to upholster with her fresh kill, if she is going to wrap herself in a Naugahyde coat or create a sailboat in her living room, maybe make a new skin seeing as the material is pink and—once cut from its staples—revelatory of a skeleton beneath, uncomfortable lumber and gauzy stuffing that, when the rains do come, look like wet cobwebs. The skeletal chair reminds me of a buffalo carcass I came across in Wyoming with rib bones and teeth; a persistent and clinging fur; and an altogether odd pathos, the idea of something either suddenly, or finally, stopped.

And I took pictures of the buffalo, feel compelled in some urban fashion to take pictures of the spent Barcalounger, too, as if they bore matching sentience in some strange continuity—I’m wholly ridiculous–but I do it anyway. The cheap frame, the remaining skin where there are knife cuts: funny how furniture is so comfortable. Cut away the external and the insides are unkind.

Mark Twain is attributed with the saying: “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval,” also “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself” both essentially speaking to that elusive feeling of being content in the trappings of your own skin. How difficult that is when on the flip side of flesh is bone-sharp bone, and feelings which jag the insides like rusted box springs. Still, there can be comfort as in: a pink chair when not torn asunder, and a buffalo, that before dying laid down in the shade of a sycamore tree.

I was having coffee with Jason the other day, whose chin is a juniper bush of a goatee and who has wire-rimmed glasses that remind me of James Joyce. He always wears a Patriots ball cap, drinks his coffee left handed.

“So what’s the hole you tried to fill, Buddy? Does it have a name?” I have been in the hospital many times.

“Validation?” I proffer, knowing that’s not the right answer, though that would provide minor comfort at least. All we want sometimes is to be seen, and heard.

“But it’s no business of mine if people think well of me or do not,” I already know, and because Jason’s a Stoic, I angle Epicectus: “Plus if you live a value-driven life, that should be its own reward.”

Jason raises an eyebrow and sits wholly relaxed in his chair. He’s the kind of guy who hugs out of utility, and is unswervingly confident in himself, a man comfortable in his own skin.

“No one’s opinion is gonna matter in the end. That’s expecting too much out of people.”

I almost say, rote: “And expectations are resentments under construction.” Jason smiles.

I think back to our conversation while the lady flays the back alley lounger, exposing the fact that a chair really has a lot of empty space: a frame, some stuffing and then a lot of nothing there. But still getting to that negative space involves hacking at some stitchery. I have a moment of esprit de l’escalier, that perfect thing I should have said to Jason, as I photograph the cryptal remains of the chair, the stuffings of the lounger not yet wet because the rains are still horizon, but which are instead sphagnum-hanging from the butchered chair legs.

The hole has no name. It could be designated with an asterisk. If spirit is the seaming together of the head and heart, then the gap is the hole in between. Just like the upholsterer has to close in negative space and draw a leather skin to hold it all together, so must one stitch together the equal and sometimes opposing elements of head and heart to suture a spirit; draw, then, a skin around that, and hope you’re comfortable within it. Or, better yet, approve your comfort, like Twain said, and be satisfied with your stitchery.

I think of the gaps between the rib bones of the felled buffalo, and the now-stupid lumber that sits in the back alley, its framework exposed, both things skinless and—in their amusing and profound ways—both having been comfortable. When the rains finally do come, I retire to my spot on the sofa, with my cat, the orange and mustard pillows, a view out the panes of the encroaching storm, and I am at peace.

 

 

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Living Gracefully on the Three Blocks Back Home

We’re in between rains and the moon is a week away from full; I am standing outside a church which, like the Ecstasy of St. Therese, is gold-spangled and fantastic, just cheapened by the cross being done up in Las Vegas neon, and the wind is pushing the clouds so fast; they are illumined briefly as they pass, titanium white, and I feel calm in a way I haven’t felt in a while, like when over coffee this morning my sponsor tells me that ‘the point of living is to die gracefully.’

He tells me there’s a beginning to his day, then an end when he puts his head on the pillow.

“A lot of bad shit can happen in the middle,” he says, his head as always covered with a Pats football cap, “But so long as I have an exactness to my day, nothing so ephemeral as this one day at a time’ they teach you, then I have a better chance of better exercising my free will in the meantime.”

Which reminds me of Immanuel Kant, also Benjamin Franklin, both itinerant planners who would schedule out their days to a T—down to five-minute increments in Kant’s case—and when asked, “Isn’t this restrictive?” Immanuel replied: “No, I have the most freedom of any man.” Which goes against a lot of other philosophy, and doesn’t account for me staring at the moon for 1:26s longer than I had intended.

But I get it.

“The first plan is to have a plan,” my sponsor says, which is truth, so I take the three blocks exactly needed to get home.

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Baby, We’ll Be Fine

There is the manic-depressive type, who is perhaps, the least understood by his friends, and about which a whole chapter could be written.

—William D. Silkworth, MD

 

“You sound calmer this time,” Derek says.

“Now that I know what I’m dealing with, and I’m not throwing ethanol onto the fire. Three years running, like clockwork.”

Bill says: “Where are you, Buddy?” and he draws a Bell curve on the tablecloth with his finger. “Are you cresting? Pinkie swear to me that if you start coming down, you send me an SOS. You call them bread crumbs, I think.”

I pinkie swear. I’m high, top of the bell.

Marilyn adds, motherly: “You’ve got a doctor to help you, and maybe just a tweak of the meds. She points to her own chest, decorated with broch: “Dear, you’re doing fine.” And she drags her cigarette and pats me on the arm.

Jemm says: “Thank you for helping me today. I say: “Henry James had three rules: 1) Be Kind; 2) Be Kind; 3) Be Kind. Thank you for helping ME by letting me help you, Jemm.

I say to Lauren, who upon me entering the Alano says she wants to photograph me because I’m like four pieces of fresh dry-cleaning with a two-day old coif; I say, “Don’t. I’m already too grandiose as is.”

I’m learning. Progress, not perfection. And although I don’t sleep well, I sit here with my chemistries while I should be sitting in bed, thinking at least of sleep, hoping maybe for some, thinking: “Man, I just caught everything, didn’t I,” as if bipolarity is something norovirus, something you can blow away in a Kleenex, something if not a discarded tissue, we can at least leave crumpled on the kitchen counter.

So I start telling myself stories. Like Cheever says, “When I find myself in danger—caught on a ski-lift stuck in a blizzard—I immediately start telling myself stories.”

I say: “Baby.”

I say: “Baby, we’ll be fine.”

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Lone Wolf(s)

lone wolfBill and I are beneath the neon of Rudford’s Diner, Bill having yet again charmed the service with both his genteel fashion and his impressive appetite, which usually includes multiple starters and cobbler—not pie—for dessert.
And if I had a million dollars, and were there a great Stenographer in the Sky, I would hand over the bills for a transcript of this evening. It would be a three person play, mainly—me, Bill, and the waitress with the feathered earrings. Minor casting would include the Kid who dropped off my cottage cheese, the Kid with the sophomoric peach fuzz who prematurely resents his night shift, which is actually where it happens, the night shift—Kid just doesn’t know it yet—and there might be the inclusion of the car on the corner that we tried to park behind before realizing it was in the Commercial Loading Zone. We avoided a perhaps ticket. That would’ve ruined an otherwise decent chicken salad sandwich.
“You heard about the Lone Wolf?” Bill asks, and I ask, “That Native American myth about which wolf do you feed?” and he says, “Naw.”
Neon buzzes its gas, and Bill and I walk, forgetting—momentarily—where we’ve re-parked.
I’ve got five fingers on my right hand, and—because Bill and I now pinkie swear—he’s the pinky on my right hand, the one-in-five people I really talk to.
“Well,” Bill says, and he is itinerantly in flip-flops and a snow cap because its San Diego raining, I am disproportionately in three pieces, “They did a study on wolves and found that 16% of wolves are single males in the population. Which isn’t,” he concludes, “A mistake. The number’s too high.”
“My kid’s got a Squad on Fortnite called ‘The Lone Wolf’ Squad, funny you should mention it.”
“Scientists‘ve found,” Bill announces, “There’s this biological imperative: there NEEDS to be a certain amount of lone wolves.”
And we find our car, and get into it together and separately.

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The Quick and the Defunct

Because it is a beautiful day and the rain has swept the sky, leaving in its wake a trail of Ruisdael clouds, I decide to take a walk back from the meeting, and it’s roughly two miles—my car has blown a head gasket—and, eh, no Uber today. It’s a good stroll, some up hills.

The lady who lives across the way from the Alano is mocking me again. Though I’m dressed down in a faded cardigan and a band T, she still says: “There he is, Gavin McInnes”, and we laugh together, but ho-ho-ho, how she’s triggering me. I, for the second time, am not Gavin.

And Sam walks by, having made brownies for the meeting, but his hearing is shit and he’s got ocular Sputniks out of both sides of his head at age 80, and when I say ‘hi’, he—like Dionne Warwick—walks on by, unhearing and halfway sightless and I just say, OK. Guess you didn’t hear me.

And I’ve got this book, which features Cheever, and Cheever says: “The tonic or curative force of straightforward narrative is inestimable” and the force of that makes my air harms do magnetic things. Cheever also says: “When I find myself in danger—caught on a snow-lift in a blizzard—I immediately start telling myself stories. I tell myself stories when I am in pain and I expect as I lay dying I will be telling myself a story in a struggle to make some link between the quick and the defunct.” I hope that makes your arm hairs do goose-bumpy things, too. Does for me.

Because a story is not a lie. Note the word: ‘tonic’, though, and for reference Tim O’Brien wrote a great short called ‘How to Tell a True War Story,’ which has its parameters outside of Vietnam.

Darrel tells me the only thing I need to read is ‘The Big Book’, confesses that it is the only book he’s read start to finish and I’m immediately suspect: Marie Kondo my library? Hell no. Read only the Big Book? I’m told I’m already a man without legs because of my disease: why cut off my head, too, and throw all my books into the fire. Darrell recommends this and he has a wide forehead which could accommodate a third eye, but I want to suddenly poke the middle place above his nose, and claim, “You’re not getting it” whilst he tells me “You’re not getting it” right back. He says “Put the books away.”

He says, “There is a solution.”

I want to say: “I find it difficult to imagine cleanliness. I can claim to imagine this but it would be false. It would be though I had claimed to reinstall myself in some afternoon of youth.”

We look at each other and, of course, it is raining outside.

A word about Cheever: he got sober and his practice was to swim in bracingly cold mountain rivers. He developed Stage 4; the Doctors said he could drink. He said, ‘No,” having found serenity.

A story (or two): On the way back from the Alano, I am crossing the street and a man in Dodge (it’s always a Ram) almost turns into me. I give him the WTF? signal with my arms outstretched; I am the pedestrian and I have the right of way. The man has a bad goatee and a ballcap; he gives me two fingers. I yell, “Right of way,” because I’m in my right, and I get a second flock of birds from his ringless fingers.

I’m not a pacifist, not entirely. He pulls past me entirely close, so I take the opportunity to pound his back window with closed fist, again saying, “Right of way.”

(I’m gonna get my ass kicked bad someday).

Truck screeches to a halt, and the guy opens his door to announce that he ‘COULD kick my ass, motherfucker,” but he doesn’t get out, only halfway, and I just repeat: “Right of way,” which is my stubborn and otherwise flock flown to the will to power, and I give him a Buddha nod probably to piss him off, but to calm me down as well, and we leave off with him screeching away and my jaw intact. Cuz, y’know, serenity.

The way home entails me either taking Pershing entirely or, risking less bodily accident, cutting through Morley Field. And so I take Morley, through the disc golf course though it’s bad on my shoes seeing as it’s just rained; I know I just have to pass through Hole 7 to be of any bother. I quag through 7 and a gathering of golfers and—god forbid—the overseer in a golfcart—are in presence.

“Hey!”

“Hey You!”

I point with my book, duck to say I’m just passing through.

“You golfing?!”

I exaggeratedly shake my head ‘no’ though I have discs in the back of my car for Gods’ sake, and who can regularly claim that?

“If you’re not playing, you’re trespassing!!” says the lady in the golfcart, and I know this to be wrong on multiple accounts.

I just point with my book that I’ll return to the road where I’ll have to avoid whizzing traffic, and they all cluck at my reticence—“She’s not your Momma, but you don’t have to ignore her!” because I haven’t actually spoken. But no one was tossing anyway, and the rules of Morley are only about overhand or underhand tossing, not trespassing for Godssake, so everyone can get off my serenity and check their moral compass. I’ll just go and be hit by a passing Dodge Ram on the road where there are no identifiable sidewalks. I wave my apology, should be something else, but I am bodhisattva.

“The tonic or curative force of straightforward narrative is inestimable” and Darrell says he knows who’s lying and who’s not in meeting, and I find this perhaps true, though shares are stories and stories are not lies.

“I tell myself stories when I am in pain and I expect as I lay dying I will be telling myself a story in a struggle to make some link between the quick and the defunct.” I don’t get hit by a car on Pershing, but I am left wondering: Did I get it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Being Decent and Great at Once

A woman knocks at my door while I am writing this morning.

“Do you own a purple PT Cruiser?” she asks.

“Nooo,” I shake my head. She twists her mouth.

“Oh, whoever does left their keys on the roof of the car. It’s just outside your house.”

I go out for a walk later, the keys are still there.

<sigh>

The car is completely open, there is litter around the vehicle, bottles and cigarette lighters.

I pocket the keys, and look around. A man is walking his Scotty.

“Excuse me, Sir—do you happen to know the owner of this car?” He stays his dog and grimaces.

“Yup. Yellow apartment building.”

I say, “Thank you, I’m just trying to reunite the keys—“and I dangle the keychain like it’s fresh-caught albacore—“With its owner.”

“Hoo-boy. Careful, Kid.” He pauses. “She’s a drunkard, and she owns a gun.”

“Oh.”

The Alexander Pope line, “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread” doesn’t click for a few minutes because I knock on a few doors anyway.

“Excuse, me, do you know the owner of the PT Cruiser?”

Nope. Nah-ah. Neh. Meanwhile, I’m running out of yellow apartment buildings.

‘Nope, not any one I know’ is starting to read as ‘Nope, not any one I care to know.’

I get all pissy, no one’s helping here, then get over it as quickly. I mean, woman’s got a gun apparently. I fold my wings. I’m being stupid, and grandiose.

I fold the keys into a paper note: ‘I found your keys on the roof of your car. Couldn’t find you. I hope your day is well. Much love.’ And I leave it tucked beneath her brake pedal because I believe in metaphor.

I have to stop myself sometimes.

I bought a coffee from my friend this morning and he was newly shaved, great haircut.

“Like your new beard, Chris,” I say; and he says, “Every day, gotta be a better man!” He punches his fist on the counter while I agree with him.

“I think it looks decent,” he remarks, rubbing his face, “Ya think?”

I smile.

“Decent, Chris,” I comment, “Is what I say as placeholder. In place of ‘good’. Your beard—it looks ‘good’. You look great even.”

We punch fists, believing in both decent and great at once.

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Kathy, Human

Kathy’s son was murdered when Kathy’s son was in the middle of remodeling his mother’s kitchen; he was at the point where the cabinet doors were unhinged and being stripped before final replacement, and the floor tiles were being chiseled one by one. A new floor was to be put in.

Kathy tells me this, she always says, ‘Let me tell you something, Thom,’ and we are having coffee before we have to settle the bill in advance—she is going to clean the house—and, Man, though I didn’t add anything to my joe, it sure tastes like privilege.

“You look good,” Kathy announces, and I say “I am good, Kathy.” She has brought minneolas from her trees, and she’s gonna have to clean around the various literature scattered about the house; bookcases are a bitch to dust.

Kathy is Mixoacan. I think I spelled that wrong. I just know it’s a three day drive into Mexico where she’s from; she also makes it clear, however, that she is from a place known to God and therefore all of us, and she says again, “Let me tell you something.”

“What, Kathy?”

And she proceeds to tell me a long story of how she just refinished her kitchen. That a woman since admitted into hospice went to her house and spat disgust at the unfinished cabinetry—“You have exposed dishes!”—and how embarrassed she was. Kathy says, with tears in her eyes, “I was so ashamed.” Even though the cabinet doors still lay on the back porch, unfinished from where her finished son left them; that she had no money to complete the work.

Kathy worked extra jobs, saved every aluminum can from her cleaning work, and cajoled her husband into installing a granite kitchen that she proudly bought, four thousand dollars off, from a Vietnamese couple on Market St. She shows me pictures on her phone, which—to get to—she has to scroll past a handsome portrait of her dead son.

“I’m glad we are friends, Kathy,” I say. “You teach me.”

The kitchen, according to the pictures, looks nice. And the cabinets have finished doors. A bit too walnut for my tastes, but who’s to judge? There are no exposed dishes, not that it mattered in the fucking first place.

“Well, I must get to work,” Kathy says, and I feel a bit guilty that this human exchange has happened and then a toilet brush is the appendix.

Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment. Pride. Humility.

I think to my word of the year, which is two words actually: ‘perseverance’ and ‘vulnerability’. Best on you, Kathy. Much love.

 

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The Handbook

skynews-frankenstein-film_4263511Cayde hops in the car and tells me that a seventh grader at his school has told him that, according to the middle-school handbook, it’s ok to sexually harass a girl if she has exposed shoulders, hips or, knees.

My stomach turns. It momentarily settles when Cayden says, “Isn’t that stupid? He was lying.”

Cayden has a “tattoo” from his friend in art class, M—-, who has not decided whether or not you may call they a he or a she. M—– loves Cayden, and uses the word “open” to describe him, because—in the same school, where apparently the rules on harassment are frustratingly up to interpretation, depending on the kid—“open” is still a necessary word, because it implies the opposite term “closed”. M—— just likes that a friend loves they; Cayden doesn’t give a care who or what you are, or how you identify.

“He was lying,” Cayden said with regard to the seventh grader, which frustratingly implies that there is something debatable here, as if this even needed a courtroom session. I do know, of course, there’s no middle-school handbook allowing harassment. Wouldn’t that be silly? But regardless, it’s somehow codified, and although it’s 2019, every other year before now did exist, and there are precedents and, sadly, there are presidents.

This could be a teachable moment, but it seems Cayde’s already got it figured out. I’m in shock, but then I remember that sometimes shock is the body’s way of telling you that inaction is sometimes the best action in the moment. I settle on saying: “You know that’s wrong, Cayde. It’s not just that he was lying, but that type of thinking is wrong. I get that you know that already.”

“I know, Daddy.” He says this like it’s no big deal; either it’s been well enough ingrained in him, or he’s just being placative. I settle on the former, though unlike me, he probably doesn’t have bile rising in his throat. Meanwhile, who do I punch at the PTA meeting? Frankenstein wasn’t the name of the monster, but the father who created him.

I just drive Cayden home and praise him for knowing right from wrong. Hopefully across town there’s a dad admonishing his son for misinterpreting the middle school handbook, and not misinterpreting it for him, that it was an imperfect machinery of the throat and not of the heart that made for this mistake.

“I’m glad your head is matched by your heart, Kid,” I tell Cayde, as I turn off the car and the engine is clicking. “Respect everybody; that’s the one rule of the book. There are no exceptions.”

“Please,” I add, keys in lap.