Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grief and Sadness

I am making myself write tonight. I don't want to, and I am not feeling it. What I want to do is play X-box 360 Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2. Escape. Be distracted. Disengage. Be less human, more machine. Feast on visual stimulation, glut on loud noises, simulated explosions, and on-line banter. To feel like I'm doing something, faster, bigger, stronger. All without moving. Or at least without moving more than my thumbs and the small muscles in my eyes. I want to be without being. Alive without living. But I'm gonna' write this bastard out.

A rut, you say? Four years. No, actually five. Sure it is winter and who doesn't have a cold, which makes one feel a little closer to blue than yellow. But for the better part of five years, I've been working on finding space for Grief and Sadness in my life's house. Suddenly five years ago, I met Grief, shook his cold hand, and stuffed him in an old foot locker. I took the trunk to the attic, and that was that. Life goes on, right? Right? I followed the only rules I knew. Tough it out. Suck it up.

Fucking Grief, he sneaks out of the box a few days later and pops up next to me in my car on the Baltimore Beltway. Back in the box, motherfucker. Back into the attic, thank you very much. Perhaps it was okay if Grief was treated like children in the Victorian era, seen but not heard. I could occasionally look stricken, but I didn't let Grief be heard. Occasionally, sure, Grief would pop off the lid and surprise me unexpectedly. In the shower. Raking leaves in the yard. Hugging my daughter. Fucking cretin, get your hands off my family. Back in the box. Get. In. The. BOX.

I had Grief pretty well figured out, six months in. Locked the box. Shoved it deep in the attic. Way away in the darkest corner. Piled it under life's flotsam and jetsam. Sure, when I was home alone, I sometimes heard Grief banging around. But as long as he didn't come downstairs, into the daylight, the sunny-warm light, I could handle a bit of banging around.

So what does Grief do? The bastard finds a friend in Sadness, and damned if the two of 'em don't bust that trunk wide and come rumbling down from the attic. Thunder on the stairs. You should have seen the look on their faces; wide smiles and a gleam in their eyes, as if saying, "Hey, we don't like the attic and it's nice day, so we are STAYING." Mischief makers they are. Like Loki, but not as Dungeons & Dragons.

Or maybe more aptly, like Thing One and Thing Two, just with black stripes on their unitards. Yeah, imagine trying to catch just one of those bastards and getting just one of 'em back into the box, the box laying broken and ruptured? Little manic-happy motherfuckers running all over the damn house, messing up things and getting spots on shit. Like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, my brother. Like toothpaste.

But like I said, I fall back on what I know. Tough it out. So I chase Grief and Sadness all over the place. The fuckers don't sit still. They hide. They sneak. They run. And they never sleep. Oh sure, I'd grab one by the collar and wrap him up in duct tape, all the while trying to shove him into something I could hide away. Sometimes I get lucky and grab hold of Grief, but when I would, Sadness would hop on my back and pull my hair. So I shaved my head. He'd grab my ears. Frisky little rascals.

So I've given up on the attic. Hey, they don't want to be shut up all the time. Can you really blame them? But they can't have run of the house, either. Little monkeys. So I'm making up twin beds in a spare guest room. They can jump up and down on the beds and tack up their idols on the bedroom walls. But they gotta' follow house rules; early to bed, no whining, and have some manners. And I'm bringing in some new friends for them to play with. "Boys, meet Joy, Silly, Happy, Smiles, and Love. Girls, this is Grief and Sadness. Now, go play."

Okay, that was way better than X-box.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Days to Remember to Forget

Sanity apparently took the weekend off. In its stead? A poor substitute teacher, known as Surrealism. Today started like any other Sunday, but it went south quickly. Perhaps the gray, pallid clouds of a New England February chased our friend Sanity to Naples or Cocoa or St. Pete's in search of warmer weather?

The first sign things were upside down was there was no milk for the coffee. There was no milk because I had used it all cooking Saturday night's mac n' cheese, which in of itself was a hint that Surreality was coming to visit. I cooked dinner. On a Saturday night. The mac n' cheese was wicked freaking good, I'll have you know. But when Mrs. Odd woke up and brewed up a batch of coffee, there was no milk and no happy Mrs. Odd. A smart man would have jumped in his truck and run to the corner store for a gallon of 2%, but I'm not a smart man. I'm a man. So I sat on the couch, sipping my coffee black, and suggested that Mrs. Odd could swing by the bagel place on her way to grab the milk. Yeah, stupid and dumb.

So while Mrs. Odd trudged to the local bagelry and corner market, I got on our shared laptop to check on my dozens and dozens of Facebook friends. As the little machine booted up, I noticed that my son was already logged on. Odd, I thought to myself, as he was just getting out of bed when I rallied myself at 8 o'clock. Him in bed at eight was a sign I misread in the moment, but alas, hindsight is, well, twenty-twenty. I suppose in my case, hindsight could mean I can see an ass when I look in a mirror. Back to the laptop. What was weird about my son being logged onto the computer was that I was online at one a.m., checking Facebook for the dozens and dozens of friends who are not awake at 1 a.m., and he was distinctly not awake at that early hour. So how did he log on? Hmmmm? And when did he log on, if he was just getting up? Hmmmm? Sip coffee, check Facebook, wait for bagels, forget about son's use of laptop...

Fast forward to Mrs. Odd's announcement that there were bagels. Oh, goody! I meander out to the kitchen, get in line for the toaster, and make myself an 'everything' bagel with olive-pimento cream cheese. Good, good. Mrs. Odd joins me in the family room, and I casually remark, "Hey, why didn't you get onion bagels? They are my favorite. I don't really like 'everything' bagels." Yeah, hindsight. Stupid, dumb, selfish. "Man, meet caveman. Caveman, meet dead husband." So I eat my 'everything' bagel (it is not a metaphor, I swear, just a bagel) in in oddly uncomfortable silence that I didn't recognize until now, twelve hours later. Fucking cavemen are embarrassed for me, for Christ's sake. Mrs. Odd and I eventually head out to the kitchen around ten o'clock, and a bulb sort of flickers in my head, and I call my son up from the basement. He bangs up the stairs, and says, "Yeah, Dad?" And now the flickering bulbs lights off in my head, burning with a sudden incandescence rivaling a lightning strike, and before I can stop myself, I say to my son, "What were you looking up on the Internet this morning?" Mrs. Odd looks at me oddly. My son looks at me like a deer in the headlights. I start to feel Surreality tickling me under the armpits, an uncomfortable sensation that reminds me that I am an IDIOT. Tickle, tickle.

And my son sheepishly mutters, "Boobs." And because I'm a stupid, dumb, idiotic, caveman, I laugh. Mrs. Odd is trying to figure out how the hell I got to the point that I was asking our son about his Internet search predilections, and why in the world would I laugh out loud when he calmly announces that he got up at his usual 5:30 a.m. rising time, and spent two and half hours Googling "Tit Viedos". Yes, "Tit Viedos"; his spelling not mine. I checked the laptop's history, and that's how he spelled 'video'. He got 'tit' right, which is after all, phonetic. A C-V-C word, probably not on his weekly spelling list. Oh, did I mention my son is seven?!?

Yeah, today was surreal. That was what happened before lunch. The rest of the day pretty much followed suit. For the first time in a long, long time, Monday is looking pretty damn appealing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Are the Odds

Fate. The very word suggests -- if in a disorganized, non-linear fashion -- the existence of a higher power. If not a higher power, certainly a more powerful force than everyday Joe or Jane. With no evidence of one God, the likelihood of three angry sisters spinning and cutting threads of life seems no more -- or less -- likely. It is too hard to envision a cabal of disembodied decisions-makers spinning each and every life onto its course. Think of the planning. Think of the paperwork. What a huge margin for error.

Randomness seems too, well, random, in the context of an alternate theory to fate. Just that one might ask "Why?" cries for something greater than a lucky confluence of 1's and 0's lining up just so. Force your mind's eye down past dust particles, past motes, pass microscopic microbes, keep thinking smaller. Atoms? Protons? Go to the smallest thing known or imagined, so infinitesimally small that we have haven't imagined how small they are. How can even a googleplex of these nottalots leaning slightly to the... let's say the left, somehow actually make it so Romeo never meets Juliet? Or, as likely, make it so Shakespeare writes a play about Romeo and Felicity?

The mere fact you are reading this means two people in your life thought something akin to affection for at least -- ahem...-- a few minutes. Lust. Like. Love. Maybe a lifetime of all three, maybe some span of time between five good minutes and 50 years. Think of the odds that you are sitting in front of your computer, reading this. What are the odds that just you are reading just this. Destiny? Luck? Fate? Chance? Well, how the fuck do you explain just this one insignificant phenomenon? Even in the time it took for this sentence to be written, billions of billions of occurrences occurred. Explain the origins and import of just one, completely. I could throw my sock across the room a thousand times and it will never happen the same way. And throwing a sock is not really all that interesting.

So, how can you (...or anyone...) explain love? If a leaf can fall an infinite numbers of ways from the branch on which it grew, how can love be explained? Come on. Love is preposterous. The simple fact that two people actually meet, like each other enough to share another moment, and perhaps even one day fall in love is so unlikely, so foolish a notion, no reasonable man or woman would believe it possible. And it happens every second of everyday, and that is so tremendously, wildly improbable yet so utterly, so wonderfully sure, it staggers the mind.

Someone recently mentioned, affectionately, that my parents were an unlikely couple. Aren't they all.