Norah Jones is singing ‘Happy Pills’ and last night I weathered things ok. My chemistries are able to drive Cayden to school.
When you receive bad news, there’s sometimes the fact of not eating. As you get older, blood sugar becomes something more of a thing.
Cayden and Finn are both in the backseat and I’ve decided bahn xeo is for dinner. It’s good I’ve decided on food this early. Breakfast is that thing everyone seems to skip, me included. Lunchtime often requires a reminder. Funny, this all coming from someone who reads cookbooks as if they were paperback novels.
(No, really. Chang’s ‘Momofuku’ is one of my favorite reads–there’s that plot device on page 52 where eggs are slow-cooked in their shells. When you crack the shell, out comes a perfectly poached egg. That’s way the hell better than ‘David Copperfield’).
Cayden used to say: “Daddy—I feel the burps in my tummy that tell me I’m hungry.” A two-year old’s logic, yet it applies. I’m bodily relieved when I’m hungry. If there’s a craving that accompanies the hunger, I’m at its whim. This is why, more than once, I’ve made soup in the summertime while it’s measuring ninety degrees outside and the broiler’s meanwhile set to ‘hi.’
One time Kat and I drove an hour in what Google Maps insisted was a twenty-minute drive. This all involved a craving for Singaporean food and a strip mall in Pasadena. The place didn’t have a liquor license so we bought Asahi from the market next door even though Kat doesn’t drink. We ordered the Hainan chicken rice (which is actually Malaysian); we also ordered the calamari even though I’d just heard an episode of ‘This American Life’ claiming most calamari is just up-sourced pig rectum. You are what you eat? We had salad just in case.
Kat, typically, picked out the onions.
Cayde’s in the backseat. He has on untidy hair and a uniform polo I’ve finally convinced him to not button up all the way. There are wardrobe rules, like how you never button all three buttons on a three-button suit. He layers like a clueless seven-year old, or maybe some sartorial genius, with interesting sleeve and color combinations.
Cayde has the habit of shaking the hair out of his eyes even when it’s not in his eyes, and who cares if he has a part. He’s a boy. To prove it, he’s wearing scabbed knees and mismatched gloves. Michael Jackson’s his current thing, so usually he sports the one trademark glove round the house. In Cayde’s repertoire, though, he has two gloves to choose from: the black one with the skeleton-fingers all done up in dimensional paint, or the other one with the sequins and gossamer threads (the one that got taken away from him in class last Tuesday; oh how he cried). Cayden wears both gloves today as if school were all just an elaborate bank heist.
I drop Cayde off at the curb and there’s always the certain gymnastic involved in him getting out of the back seat. It’s a negotiation of straps–seat belts, backpacks, drawstring lunch bags. Like father, like son, getting all tangled up. I can commandeer a sauté pan and set off a contained fire–I can do all the restaurant tricks. Seriously: hand me the brulee torch. Give me a car seat, though, and finesse is something absent. It’s a wonder I got the brassiere off when making Cayde in the first place.
The Norah Jones song is over. 91X is playing ‘House of Pain’ and I manage to continue listening. It’s a reminder that we grow more tolerant as we get older.
Cayde climbs out the car and–with mittened hands–grabs my face and gives me a peck on the lips. This is something that’s become scarcer of recent; I don’t know why we kiss in different ways as we get older. We just do, while the ‘Y’ chromosome does its near radioactive decay into an impassive mid-life. (One time as a kid I refused a good-night kiss from my dad and he slapped me so hard on the ass that it left a stingingly-red handprint beneath my pajama bottoms).
“Bye, Daddy! I love you!”
Finn has snot caked in his nostrils because he’s teething and everything is leaking. He waves bye to his brother: ‘By-ee!’ Everything ends in the ‘double-E’ these days. I wave to Cayde while idling at the curb. I used to walk Cayde to class and wait as he climbed the stairwell to rm. 7. Every morning, I’d hope for him to turn around that one last time to blow me a kiss. The entire first month of kindergarten, the school bell was Pavlovian and I welled up every single day atop the hopscotch squares.
Cayde turns around and blows me a kiss, touting an oversized backpack and with tousled hair he refuses to have combed. He’s wearing a sky-blue polo and a red graphic tee, all of which are un-tucked. I figure the mismatch a sign of good parenting, in which case I’m not being the slightest bit ironic.
I submit to traffic. It’s departure from the norm, but bahn xeo is for dinner and that means I have to drive north to where the Asian markets are. Let’s see: I need Thai basil, I need daikon. I’m suddenly nauseous because coffee disagrees with me of recent. It’s alright, though. It’s ok, even, when that guy cuts me off on the 163. Finn and I were conversing; I give the white truck a curt honk of the horn and we keep driving on this freeway which used to be our freeway before we moved to the other side of the mesa. Now we have the 805.
Finn tells me a story from the backseat. Spoiler alert: it involves drooling. That tooth on the right side is coming in which will finally even out his smile. People on the Down Syndrome website say: ‘Ok—what’s with the shark teeth?’ Finn sports a few jagged incisors and it used to bother me. You get more tolerant as you get older I think I already said. I like Finn’s little jagged teeth and he smiles with eyes winced. It’s the goddamned cutest thing.
The slowing trafffic is only convenient because I can turn around in my seat now, continuing the conversation that otherwise would’ve been interrupted by uninterrupted motion. Finn’s hairs are kinduv long, in need of a trim. Similarly, the palm trees decorating the roadside have recently been debrided. They look like the arboreal equivalent of shorn sheep. It’s a slow crawl past the Cabrillo Bridge but the commute becomes faster once the palm trees disappear into the rearview and as we pass through the Valley.
There’s the Children’s Hospital and Mary Birch, where we spend a good amount of time. Jenn’s getting an IUD inserted currently, at the campus I’m now passing, and I consider I need daikon. Can’t forget the daikon. Also, I’ll probably get oyster mushrooms because I’m not a fan of enoki.
There’s this fact of a perhaps other kid. But there’s also the meantime. In the meantime we don’t predicate a lot of sentences.
Pulling into the 99 Ranch parking lot, I think the store’s closed. It’s 9am. ‘Closed’ is certainly a possibility. The backside of the store, though, is lit with a neon sign saying: ‘Open.’ The backside is where the produce lives so we push through in a dilapidated grocery cart and Finn is momentarily surprised by the turnstiles. We pause at the nmgaio bin which looks like daikon but is not.
Anything can and should surprise us. Turnstiles. Cancer. Things. The goldfish swimming in his bowl is most likely surprised by the castle every time.
My grandma is 89. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the the malignancy suddenly cancelling her voice.
I ask the guy for Thai basil because Thai basil is important for bahn xeo and that’s why I sat in traffic. For fucking Thai basil.
He checks the same shelves I just checked, the shelves I already checked because I know where the Thai basil is supposed to live. (We do this thing where we make superfluous gestures, to rid ourselves of guilt).
“Sorry,” he finally shrugs.
In line at the meat counter, I’m guest number ‘00’. Says so on the red digital read-out thing. I’m usually ‘87’, or ‘323’ and usually I have to elbow my way in alongside the Laotian grandmothers, while wishing I understood Cantonese. But it’s still early.
I wish I was at least ‘1’ though. Being ‘00’ is fucked. up.
I need a pound of ground pork because I’m changing the recipe in my head. My order is pretty unremarkable. Sometimes I order ten pounds of bones and I get a smile which is affirmation that I’m hungry, that the butcher knows I know how to cook. You can make stuff from bones. I’m not as fond of the aquarium displays down the aisle. Fish are far less substantial.
Finn destroys the receipt in front of the smiling cashier since everything is metaphor these days. We go home and, since we are hungry, I later make lunch.