Tête-à-Tête

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

There are times when I think, This isn’t supposed to be part of my life. Somehow I ended up in someone else’s nightmare. When did I become one of those people things like this happen to?

Wasn’t it enough when my husband’s mistress outed him on the same day I was to leave with my own companion on our “business” trip? She found me in the grocery store buying a bottle of wine she assumed was for my husband and me. Idiotic bitch. Of course I knew he had a mistress. No man spends that much time and money away from home unless he’s fulfilling his needs elsewhere.

I didn’t care. I stopped loving him years ago. Right about the time I discovered his online dating profile claiming he was a widower. I forgave him like all foolish women do for their men. But after a while I got smart. I got a mistress of my own. Except a man. A manstress.

The girl, no more than twenty-five, accosted me right there on the wine aisle between the Rosé and the Merlot. In a resounding voice that came from somewhere beneath her breast implants, she announced she was sleeping with my husband. My response, “Sorry to hear it, Honey.” My husband was a terrible lover. Being touched by him was like being fondled by a fifteen-year-old. Why another woman would want to sleep with him, I’ll never know. I didn’t want to sleep with him. That’s why I found my manstress. He was half my age with the stamina of a varsity rowing team.

The nosey wife of a mutual friend witnessed the event in the grocery store and told her husband who told my husband. When I got home, my husband was waiting for me. He wanted to talk. I wanted to pack my bags and head to the airport. We had a long conversation during which my husband spoon fed me all the same bullshit. He was sorry. He loved me. He didn’t know why he was so selfish and inconsiderate. He didn’t love her. Whatever, Honey. I got two tickets to Phuket and a tanned, toned twenty-three year old waiting for me.

Thanks to my husband’s attempt to keep his ass out of divorce court and free of alimony payments, my manstress and I missed our plane. I used the excuse that I was fed up with my husband’s lies to pack a bag and get the hell out of there. On the way to the airport, I called my lover and we met at a nearby hotel. We couldn’t get another flight until the morning.

“If all the world’s a stage, then this was not part of my script. Somewhere, someone else is reading my lines, playing my part, and I’ve been stuck in their role, for surely this role is not mine. My character was never supposed to turn out this way,” said I.

“But, perhaps it was, and you’re simply unaware because you aren’t able to read ahead,” answered he.

“I don’t like this part of the production at all,” I said as I covered my head with the sheets. “It’s downright miserable, morose and depressing”

“The scales are striking a fair balance; many parts of the production are very good. No production can be completely merry and light. Who’s interested in seeing a performance in which the characters are ideal and perfect?” he asked, pulling the covers from my face. “That wouldn’t be interesting at all.”

“No, we want suffering. We long for it; it’s why we create our own miseries. We loathe them, but they thrill us. I suppose it’s why we strive for imperfection,” I said burying my face in a pillow.

“Perhaps it’s the reason we justify our short-comings. We don’t want happiness; we do everything in our power to remain unhappy, then complain about it.” It was obvious what he was getting at.

“My observations have led me to believe I am not alone in my human imperfection. I would say humanity, but that connotes goodness. The human race is quite lacking in humanity. Myself included. Surely, I understand the failings of my human brethren represent an overall flaw of the species,” I said.

“No one is exempt from these biological, evolutionary, socialized short-comings,” he replied.

“In an ideal world,” I began, ignoring his response, “the term human could be linked with humanity, but in reality – which is never ideal in any way – the term human can be better linked with adjectives such as cruel and bizarre . ”

“Self-pitying, faithless . . .” he interrupted.

“Rude, and worst of all, ignorant,” I finished. “And these are our flaws, as humans. There are more, but I think these cover a pretty wide spectrum of our sadistic, self-serving human behaviors.”

“Are there any human behaviors that are not self-serving?” he asked.

“No,” I answered before rolling over and falling asleep.

 

Copyright Donnell Jeansonne. All rights reserved. Reproduction or duplication whole or in part not permitted without permission and credit to the author.

Affected

Photo c/o Microsoft Office Free Clipart

Little Joey found a bag in his back yard. Its contents were a book of matches, some rags, lighter fluid, and a Mickey Mouse hat. The air smelled like barbecue and burning plastic. Joey looked to his left. A plume of black smoke rose from behind the fence that separated his yard from his neighbors’. Particles of an unknown substance whirled in the haze, tumbling and performing somersaults as the fire below drove them upwards.

Joey didn’t trust Mr. Woodsburrow. He thought it was strange Mr. Woodsburrow hardly left the house, and no one in the neighborhood could remember how long since they’d seen Mrs. Woodsburrow. She’d stopped showing up at bingo over a month before, and she wasn’t at mass to help with the collections on Sundays, either. Mr. Woodsburrow told the pastor he’d had to sell her red 1977 Buick Century. Couldn’t afford the gas, he said. Joey was suspicious.

His mom said Mr. Woodsburrow wasn’t weird. She said he was still grieving over his missing grandkids. She said he was affected by their disappearance. She said the same about Mrs. Woodsburrow, and that’s why no one saw her anymore. “She’s in mourning,” Joey’s mom said. Joey still thought Mr. Woodsburrow was weird.

Joey was startled by a loud snapping sound; it sounded like the Black Cats he lit on New Year’s Eve. One time he threw them over Mr. Woodsburrow’s fence, and Mr. Woodsburrow came into the backyard. He stormed through the gate and grabbed Joey by the throat. He screamed and shook Joey until his mom and dad came out. Mr. Woodsburrow stopped shaking Joey then and put him down. Joey slumped against the fence, trying to catch his breath. He coughed and swallowed his spit to wet his throat. Joey’s parents talked to Mr. Woodsburrow; he lied and told them Joey threw the firecrackers at him. Joey protested and told them he’d just thrown the Black Cats over the fence, but he still got grounded for a week. Joey thought it was bullshit nobody even told Mr. Woodsburrow not to grab or shake him.

The snapping sounds made Joey curious, and he felt compelled to peek over the fence. He was afraid, because Mr. Woodsburrow was probably outside. He was always outside. If he saw Joey, there was no telling what he’d do. He’d probably come grab him again, and Joey’s parents weren’t home from work. Joey looked back at the bag he’d found laying in the grass. He looked to the fence and the plume of smoke and the particles doing acrobats in it.

Joey decided to look. He decided if he were quiet enough and didn’t stand over the fence by much, Mr. Woodsburrow might not notice. He went and took the white pool ladder from the garage. He didn’t notice his bike leaning against the ladder, and it fell onto its side with the sound of metal against concrete. Joey held his breath and hoped it wasn’t loud enough for Mr. Woodsburrow to hear. He replaced the bike and walked out of the garage with the ladder. The ladder wasn’t heavy, but it was long and bulky, and Joey had difficulty carrying it. The bottom of its legs almost touched the top of Joey’s sneakers, and he was preoccupied watching his feet as he walked. He ran headlong into something hard yet pliable. It wasn’t the fence, or the house.

Having released the ladder, Joey stumbled backward and landed on his behind. He looked up to see the hard yet pliable thing, but what he saw were Mr. Woodsburrow’s large, thick hands right before they grabbed him by the throat. Joey kicked Mr. Woodsburrow’s legs and knees, but he didn’t release the boy. He held Joey by the neck; his hands were covered in soot; his shirt smelled like barbecue and burning plastic. Mr. Woodsburrow shook Joey. He held him by the throat, and he shook him like a chicken thigh inside a bag of Shake ‘N Bake. Because no one ever told him not to shake Joey.

 

Copyright Donnell Jeansonne. All rights reserved. Reproduction or duplication whole or in part not permitted without permission and credit to the author.

God Save the Queen

I don’t understand why my wardrobe choice of today drew so much attention.  As usual it was no more than a t-shirt and jeans, my typical hospital clothes. Okay, my typical all the time clothes.

It was my t-shirt that got so much attention. I don’t know why. I’ve worn it before at the hospital, and plenty of places. It’s nothing spectacular. Just a regular old band t-shirt.

The attention drawing t-shirt. Queen’s legendary emblem was designed by Freddie Mercury. It includes symbols of each of the band members’ astrological signs.

The first person to take notice was the respiratory therapist, at six a.m. He said he liked the shirt and I said thanks. He then asked if I made the shirt, to which I replied no and explained Queen is a band, and he said he’d never heard of them. Okay, so, he’s younger than I am, and probably has different taste in music. Maybe he’s  been on Mars for forty years. I don’t know.

Later after lunch I went to the front desk to order my dinner tray. An elderly volunteer working there remarks on the shirt.

Her: “Oh I just love that shirt. It’s so pretty.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Her: “That design is just beautiful.”

Me: “Yes.” Thinking Freddie would be pleased.

Her: “It looks like it’s right out of London. So majestic.”

Me: “They are British, a British rock band.”

Her: “A rock band?”

Me: “Yes a Seventies rock band.”

Her: “The Seventies?” Okay, she is rather elderly. Probably spent more time listening to Pat Boone than rock and roll in the Seventies.

Me: “Well, the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. They put out music over that time.”

Her: “How did you keep it looking so new? It looks so new.”

Me:  “. . . Um . . .  it is new. Well, fairly new. A few months old.”

Her: “Oh.” Cue Edith Bunker impression. “Ohhhh.”

Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker in the ’70’s sitcom All in the Family

The first guy didn’t know Queen, and the elderly lady probably listened to Pat Boone while Queen was combining pseudo-opera and rock and she somehow thinks I kept a shirt looking new for longer than I’ve been alive, but at least the next  person knew the band.

She was another respiratory therapist who is a little (lot) older than I am. Which she stated after she asked when I’d seen Queen, and I told her that I never did but wish I had and that I was only twelve when Freddie Mercury passed away. “Oh then you’re A LOT younger than me, then.” Then she asked, “Who gave you the shirt.” I hesitated, confused. “I bought it,” I said. “Oh, that’s good,” she replied. I supposed last time she bought a band t-shirt you had to actually be at the concert. I dunno. It’s called a catalogue people. But she said she thought the world lost a huge talent when Freddie died, and ain’t nobody can argue with that! Or at least I won’t. Of course the same lady asked where I’d found an app I have on the iPad for Doodles. “I went to the App Store . . . and searched for it,” I said. Did I mention she was a little (lot) older than me? Anyway, she’s OK in my book.

Statue of Freddie Mercury on Lake Geneva. Montreux, Switzerland.

Since tonight is my night off from PICU duty, and the hubs is at the hospital, I’m staying at my mom’s apartment. She lives much closer than we do. As I was walking to her building, I passed a couple on a bench. We all greeted each other like good polite Southerners, then as I walked away, one of the two says, “I like that shirt.” I thank her over my shoulder and walk on wondering what the hell is so special about my shirt today.

I’m by no means a fashionista. I mean, I only wear clothes because it’s the law. All right. I’m kidding. Nobody wants to see this fat bottomed girl letting it all hang out. Smirk.

Just in case any of my readers prefer Pat Boone to Classic Rock or have been on Mars for forty years, have a taste and enjoy the flavor:
Fat Bottomed Girls via Queen Official YouTube

Mother’s Day

Photo credit: Africa via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m late on my post, but it’s something I wanted to share. Yesterday was a bad day for me, what with the baby in the hospital and all. I longed to be spending my time with my family-at the park and having dinner like we did last Mother’s Day.

I wanted to write this as a dedication to some very special women in my life.  Later is better than never, I guess.

I want to start with my maternal grandmother. She was born in 1926, but don’t tell anyone I told you. Her parents came to the good ol’ USA from Italy in the early 1900’s (or late 1800’s, I’m fuzzy on the details). My great-grandmother passed away when I was a toddler, but I vaguely remember that she spoke broken English and had a bird. She was a determined, strong woman who raised four kids and divorced her abusive husband-a very big deal to an Italian Catholic at that time. But she did what she had to, and they never had much, but they had what was important-lots of family. And pasta. I’m assuming the last part, but I know when I was growing up we always had a lot of that at my grandma’s.

I don’t know a whole lot about her youth, and I can’t begin to imagine what life was like for my grandma, the eldest of her siblings, helping raise the others. I figure things got pretty harsh at times, especially during the Depression. But they made it through, by the grace of God and by doing what was neccesary.

In her twenties, my grandma met and married my grandpa. They had three kids, one of which is my mother. The other two are my uncles. In his infancy, my grandmother’s middle son suffered an illness that left him disabled. I don’t even think my grandparents were given a clear answer at the time, but all I know is that my uncle suffered a high fever that damaged his young brain.

My grandmother spent days, weeks, months, years in and out of the hospital with my uncle-the very same hospital I am at now with Doodles. My uncle required many surgeries that spanned into his late teens or early twenties. She was told he wouldn’t walk or speak, but he does both-albeit with difficulty-and although age is taking the inevitable toll, he is able to participate in daily activities. He’s nearing sixty, and my grandmother-nearing eighty-six-is still caring for him.

I’ve learned that my grandmother has been inconsolable since she learned of Doodles’s illness, and I understand why. She is a mother, and she has been where I am, struggling, hoping, praying, begging for her son’s life. I am nearly her carbon copy, experiencing the same heartache, uncertainties, and longing that she did so many years ago. She is the only person near to me now that understands what it is to be me now, understands how it is to be the mother of a child with a life threatening and debilitating condition. She is one of an innumerable amount of reasons that I refuse to walk with my head down during this difficult time.

My grandmother’s youngest child is none other than my own mom. I don’t know how to begin to describe this woman. She is vibrant, exuberant, hard-working, no-holds-barred, badass, outspoken, lively, extroverted, loving, level-headed, funny, optimistic, and just a little quirky. She is the reason I love reading and writing. She is the reason I am everything I am today. I am proud to be her daughter. She is the reason I am proud to be a woman.

In this chapter of my life, my mother is my best-friend. Not always the case. There were those teenage years when I was becoming my own independent person, and we butted heads-a lot. But as an adult, and especially as a mother, I know she was kicking my ass down the right path. Figuratively, of course.

She is the woman who first introduced me to Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe and Hitchcock and old time movie monsters and scary movies and all the frightfully delightful things I adore. She is the woman who nurtured my imagination and creativity. She’s the woman with whom I sat on so many Saturday mornings or evenings watching pitifully horrible B movies and laughing our asses off (still do). She is the woman I would be if I were a better woman.

Lastly, I want to write about my late paternal grandmother. Like my maternal grandmother, I know little of her childhood, but I do know she was born and raised in rural Louisiana on a farm. At some point, they moved to the city, then the suburbs. She married my grandfather and they had three sons, one of which is, of course, my father.

I understand that in her youth she suffered an ailment in her legs that required the wearing of braces, and she continued to have some problems into adulthood. She worked hard to raise her kids while my grandfather worked shift work at a local refinery.

After the floods of Hurricane Katrina claimed their home, my grandparents moved back to the country to live out their twilight years. My grandmother became ill and didn’t recover, passing away just over a month before Doodles was born. She was so excited to have a great-grandchild, and if there is an afterlife, maybe she’s there watching us now and sending positive energy our way.

I love these women. They have shaped who I am. They deserve recognition everyday. And I thank them.

Encumbered

20120412-125512.jpgThree o’clock. Merrill stares at the fragmented red numbers on the digital alarm clock. Two hours until it’s time to get up, and he hasn’t slept but maybe an hour, between the end of Frasier and the beginning of paid advertising.

Sherrie rolls onto her back and grunts, inhaling a gulp of air that sounds like it will choke her. A Breathe-Right strip dangles from the bridge of her nose. She closes her mouth, smacks her lips, and rolls onto her side. Merrill wonders how he will tell her.

The ceiling fan wobbles in uneven, squeaky rotations. Merrill sighs and watches as its dust-covered blades make the same circular movement over and over again. “This is it,” Merrill could say. “I can’t do this another day. Another hour. Another minute.” Sherrie would call him a coward. She would remind him of his pension. And that her insurance already covers the kids.

Porterhouse’s legs kick in a running motion. His eyes twitch; his lip curls into a snarl. Merrill decides dogs dream about real or imagined adventures-chasing neighborhood cats, bouncing up and down on the furniture, being fed treats. Merrill envies the dog.

Sherrie snorts and coughs and rolls onto her other side. Merrill never sleeps when she goes to bed first. He thinks about what he’ll do, how he’ll say it. He envisions himself leaving home, walking out the door with his half of their economy class luggage. But he couldn’t abandon the kids, and he doesn’t want to leave Sherrie, even though he’s thought about it. He’s thought about it a lot. Merrill knows he can’t because after their last big fight when Sherrie went to stay with her sister he dreamed about her all night and woke up crying.

Merrill toys with the solid band encircling his finger, turning it around and around in sync with the ceiling fan’s wobbling rotations. He sits up and decides to get a drink of water. Plus he read once that it’s better to get out of bed when you can’t sleep than to lie in bed thinking of not sleeping. Or something. He wonders how he’ll make it through another day.

Four o’clock. Merrill sits on the sofa with his feet on the coffee table flipping through eighty channels of infomercials. He thinks he wouldn’t miss the cable, if they had to make that sacrifice. The kids only watch the same Spongebob DVD’s all the time. Sherrie spends more time at work than home. Losing cable seems an insignificant forfeiture.

Sherrie would still need her phone for work, and Merrill doesn’t want to give his up for a cheap, boring one. He thinks with time he’d become accustomed to not having it, though. But the mortgage isn’t going anywhere, and even after making ten years of payments, the principle has barely decreased. Damned interest, thinks Merrill. Damned banks.

Merrill knows a lot of people, friends, out of work. He should be grateful. But he decides it isn’t normal for a man to want to drive into the lake everyday during his morning commute, so he feels it’s for the best. He could find another job. Even though he didn’t finish college because it became too expensive after Sherrie had Alexis. Then came Isabelle, then Daniel. And his is a good job. Decent pay. Benefits. What kind of man would give up reasonable employment?

“The kind who drive their cars into lakes during their morning commutes,” Merrill says to himself.

Four-thirty. Merrill lies on the sofa, arm crooked over his eyes, just another hour to close them and he’ll be all right. But he’s had too much water, and he has to pee. Merrill watches his stream create bubbles in the water and he thinks about what he’ll say. He imagines going out with a grand farewell. Telling them all how he feels. Then he thinks he should be more realistic. As if it’s not enough he’s going to do it. He is this time. And he could have the last laugh even without going down in Sumbalinx history as the guy who finally told Fat Larry to go fuck himself. He could.

Water splashes out of the steel basin and onto the granite countertop. Merrill dries his hands and opens the mirrored medicine cabinet door. He observes Sherrie’s bottle of Xanax, a brand new prescription. To the left of it is an old bottle of Vicodin from when Merrill had his tooth pulled last year, and to the right is a bottle of Tylenol P.M. Merrill picks up all three bottles and contemplates the outcome, but his life insurance wouldn’t pay out, so Merrill puts the bottles back and closes the mirrored door. Merrill’s reflection smirks at him. Wouldn’t it be a hoot, though, when Sherrie found him prostrate in the bed, maybe in a puddle of puke like after that one Super Bowl when she got so pissed off because he was on her stupid decorative throw pillows?

Five o’clock. Merrill jumps in his sleep when he hears his alarm clock bleating from the bedroom. Sherrie glares at him as he trips over his shoes and his face nearly lands on the corner of the nightstand. Merrill slaps the snooze button and apologizes to his wife. It’s time to get up anyway, she tells him. She asks him to get the kids out of bed.

Alexis and Isabelle’s sleepy eyes roll open, and they groan as light from the hallway creates long rectangular shapes across their beds. Alexis wants five more minutes.

“No now,” says her father. “Your mother is getting your breakfast ready.”

Alexis sits up from her pillow, auburn curls mashed to one side of her head. Isabelle stretches and pushes back her covers revealing pink and green Tinkerbell pajamas. Merrill thinks of their last vacation to Disney World. He thinks about explaining to them why there won’t be another one.

“Get up,” he says.

He remembers Daniel during that trip, just turned one, his face a permanent mask of excitement. Before the hospital, the nebulizer, the constant trips to the pediatrician.

Daniel lets out a sigh and rolls on his side. “Hi,” smiles the boy.

“Hey, buddy, you ready to get up?”

“Yeah,” says Daniel nodding his tiny head.

“I love you so much,” says Merrill into the rolls of his son’s chubby neck.

“I yuv you,” says Daniel.

Five-twenty. Alexis and Isabelle sit at the kitchen table scooping Fruit Loops into their mouths, tinged globules of milk drip from their spoons. A few of the multi-colored rings have fallen on the floor. Sherrie curses when she crushes one through the fabric of her pantyhose. Daniel mimics her in his high chair. Merrill raises an eyebrow at Sherrie who wipes her heel with a damp dishtowel and tells her toddler not to repeat after Mommy.

Six o’clock. Sherrie hustles the kids out the door. They’re all encumbered with their own respective loads. Sherrie with Daniel on her hip carries her briefcase, purse, and Daniel’s diaper bag while the girls both struggle with too-full book bags, lunch boxes, and thick coats. Sherrie asks Merrill why he isn’t ready for work. He tells her he will be.

“You have to leave by at least six-thirty,” she reminds him.

He knows. He can’t forget. It takes approximately fifteen minutes from the house to the interstate. Then it takes approximately fifteen more minutes to drive from the on-ramp to the bridge. Every morning at approximately seven o’clock a.m. Merrill Steppler imagines plunging his red Nissan Sentra into Lake Pontchartrain. But it probably wouldn’t even break the concrete rail, he thinks.

Seven-o-five. Merrill sits on the couch still in his pajamas sipping coffee from the Father’s Day mug Sherrie bought him the first year after Alexis was born. He stares at his cell phone sitting on the table. He’s running out of time.

“Larry Berginger’s office.”

Fuck you, you smelly fat fuck! Merrill thinks. “Hey, Lare? Yeah. I’m not going to make it in today,” he says.

“Why? What’s the matter?”

Merrill hates Fat Larry’s questions. Why couldn’t he just assume Merrill was sick and shut the hell up?

“Not feeling well. I was up all night . . . not feeling well.”

“All right then. See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” says Merrill. “See you tomorrow.”

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