It began with what I thought was sensible advice, that being: “Don’t moonwalk naked on the wet bathroom tiles, Cayde,” which is what he was doing. His swimming trunks were discarded on the floor of the Handlery Resort’s bathroom which directly adjoins the pool. You know–the one we’re not supposed to swim in because the sign says so: “Pool reserved for hotel guests only.” (I’m not a lawyer, but I figure there are so many ways you can semantically dodge penalty here). I bought a plastic cup of beer from the poolside lounge, therefore I’m a customer qua guest. Settled. My kids can swim. Their sleeping schedules had been duly interrupted with the busyness of a weekend, and we were here to (maybe) trespass, kill some time, and speed the kids to Nod. Cayden spent the better part of two hours imitating a fish.
His moonwalk interrupted, Cayde suddenly realized the fact of his eyes. They had been open above and beneath the water in all those daredevil games he had been playing with the friends who’d joined us. Commence screams which were the sudden and dramatic response to his chemically-reddened eyes that– now fish out of water–stung.
The janitor was outside and wanted simply to mop the bathroom, but Cayde was crying and pawing at his face.
“Just a sec,” I said.
There’s a few ways out of this. One involves a lot of yelling because this is ridiculous and because two seconds prior, Billie Jean almost slipped in front of the urinals, bare-assed naked.
I take the ‘science’ approach. Cayden routinely asks me insane math questions and his bed is bannered with both dinosaur and shark posters.The other day, there was a science experiment involving baking soda and pennies and he was upset when the addition of vinegar didn’t erase Lincoln’s visage.
“Dude–,” I say, and he continues rubbing his eyes, “Put your hands down, Dude.”
“You had your eyes open, right?” And Cayde nods.
“OK”–I point to the spot just above the eye and south of the temple–“These are your lacrimal glands, Cayde, and they make tears, alright? And there are a lot of chemicals in that water. When you blink your eyes, those tears make their way here (corner of the eye) and when you blink, your eyelids take those tears and flush out all the bad stuff. Blink your eyes, don’t rub. Keep blinking your eyes.”
Cayden’s naked and crying and I’m saying ‘lacrimal’: all’s normal. This is how we do our thing. Cayde stops crying and,on my urging, takes a few deep breaths. His eyes are really red; he has failed as a merman. I tug on his shorts so the janitor can clean up after the hotel’s not-guests. The floor is slippery.
Cayde blinks and blinks while we’re packing up from the pool; he’s meanwhile swinging 180’s round the stairway bannisters and back, and I’m sure he’s enjoying what must be his own personal nickelodeon reel. He’s blinking on the constant and that must mean his world is currently manifesting as some weird stop-animation thing.
At Cayde’s request we listen to Fats Domino on the way home. During the big blackout a few years back, my car overheated and my phone battery died. I parked at the Handlery and had to walk the six miles uphill to get home. We re-trace this path in the car and we’re not listening to ‘I’m Walkin” which would have been appropriate, but rather ‘I’m Ready’ which has no significance at all. Still, Cayde remarks that this is a good kind of rock n’ roll and we agree and–Jeezus–Finn is still not asleep in the back.
When the car levels off onto University Avenue, I tell Cayde that, during the blackout (something akin to every building suddenly having its eyes closed) everybody was out on the sidewalks and beneath the restaurant verandas. Drinks were served lukewarm because the fridges were out, no one served oysters,and the pearl of it all was that everyone was happy things were dark. It was a hundred-five degrees out: true story. Refrigerator pans collected water; there was a line out Servall Liquor where patrons were individually ushered inside to grab candles and sweating bottles of white.
The hot dog place is right next to Servall and Cayde asks to go there again someday, interrupting my story. We take a right and I say, “Sure.” Cayden’s eyes are puffy, and now it’s ‘Blueberry Hill’ because we’re on a mesa. Things are fine, though I’d like Finn to sleep. He was up till ten-thirty last night and I’m waiting for his eyes to close in surrender.
Cayde screams again at home because his eyes again sting and I have to again coach him to, one, not yell; and, two, quit rubbing. He’s on the bathroom floor with chlorine-reddened eyes and with a towel over his head. Finn’s crying, too, and has his arms interlocked around Cayde’s neck. He’s upset that his brother is upset.
“C’mon, Cayde–let’s splash some water in your eyes.”
Finn is beside himself. It’s important to know that humans are the only animals that overspill their ocular goblet cells with lacrimal excretions out of pure emotion alone. Science, right? Means: we cry when we’re sad. Crying when we’re hurt is something else entirely.
Cayden walks out of the bathroom with red red eyes, but he’s calm and says, “Thanks, Daddy.” And Finn’s ok, too. He was really tired and eventually his eyes just close and because he’s in desperate need of sleep. There was nothing to be sad about after all.
I tell Cayde that every blink passes a tear over the eye. Sometimes it spills over, sometimes not. Finn sleeps easy once Cayden reduces his tears to the occasional sniff.
This is how we not cry.