Friday, January 27, 2012

Ted



Ted was kind of your classic Special Ed kid.


Always smiling, always hugging, often drooling.


He wore a special cuff on his wrist that he was supposed to use to wipe the drool off of his chin.


I don't want to gross you out; that has never been my intention.


Let me just say that Ted's cuff was frequently heavy with moisture, and did not smell like goodness or truth.


Ted loved to show people his room.


His mom had paid a lot of money to make sure Ted had his own room at the group home, and she had decorated it with great love and obsessiveness.


Ted's mom, Lauren:


Lauren looked like she was hewn from some stone perched eternal on the desolate cliffs of Denmark.


A life spent squinting at the dark in fear of Grendel had left her with a massive brow that longed to crush the softer bits of the rest of her face.


She always distrusted me because she popped in one time for a surprise visit, and I had not cleaned Ted's room to her exacting standards.


Then things got worse.


I was young; I was nervous; I gave Ted someone else's medication.




Nothing a little trip to the hospital couldn't fix.


Geez.


I didn't know Ted was allergic to bees.
What a good sport he was.


Even when I accidentally knocked him off a stage.


We were up there practicing our Christmas play, and I backed up without looking behind me.


There was the sensation of pushing against a slightly denser patch of air, and then nothing.


How do you fall off a stage?


Do you flail about in an effort to halt your descent, hoping to get it together enough to brace for impact?


Do you take ukemi and come up throwing ninja stars?


Ted falls off a stage like this:
I think there is something to be learned from watching how Ted falls off a stage.


Don't fight what life brings you; let it come.


Let it come up to meet you, like a gym floor, and do nothing to soften the impact.


Permit the waves of concussion to wash over you, own them.


They are yours.





As we all hunkered down for the long winter, things just kept getting better.


And then, time slowed.

Bodies began to slip and contort as if in some underwater dance of clumsiness and transformation.
And none danced higher or more beautifully than Ted.
I ran to help him, my heart in my throat.


But he bounced right up without complaint.


Hours passed.


After dinner, I told Ted to put his chair on the table like always.






Yes, on his journey through the snow, Ted had broken his arm.




I had no answer.

When the warm weather returned, you can see why I felt confident enough to take thirteen developmentally disabled boys to the zoo, by myself.


What lunacy compelled me, what captive animal so desperate was I too see, that all sense, all reason, from my mind deserted?


Dumbly then, did tweedle twee.


To the crowded Reptile House we came, and from the other side emerged, with a Ted-shaped hole in our procession.

I turned and did a headcount, only to see I was one short.

For love of all that is holy.

I had just lost Ted at the zoo.


I imagined Lauren's granite fists closing on my throat. 

They pressed me to the floor, and in her eyes, nothing but soulless fury.

"Hate you forever" she spits, and crushes down till my candle is extinguished.

A shroud of panic descended on me.

"Ok, everyone sit down. Now." The twelve remaining boys sat on the grass beside the reptile house.

I had to go back in and see if Ted was there.

That meant leaving the boys unattended, something I absolutely did not want to do.


We are not talking about nice little poster children for Special Olympics, or candidates for one of those Impaired and Adorable calendars.


We're talking about a guy who stabbed his roommate in the head with a fork and ran off into the sunset, buck naked, proclaiming himself to be J-J-Jesus.


We're talking about a nice little fellow who would manually remove his teeth when angry, or consume his feces when nervous.

The two minutes it took me to scour that Reptile House were heavy with the dread of what I might see when I re-emerged.

Thankfully, nothing had happened.


But no Ted, either.


I flagged down a passing zoo employee, and we proceeded to fail utterly to facilitate successful communication.
I am not exaggerating. 

This conversation went on and on.


This man, this noble keeper of caged wildlife, was incapable of understanding what Ted looked like.


He just could not get it right.


And behind me, the other boys had begun to deteriorate.
I felt the situation slipping away from me.

It could not be reeled back in; Ted was gone, Lauren would make sure I went to prison, and my life would be only smashing big rocks into little rocks while singing gospel songs in beautiful harmony with my fellow prisoners.


An old-timer named Preacher would offer me words of comfort, his weird gnarled fingers poking his Bible and then poking me in the chest.


I could feel that poke in the terrible thudding of my panicked heart.

But hope does not always abandon the bald, the fat, the stupid.

Almost an hour later, a little green Zoo jeep roared up with Ted in the passenger seat.


Have you ever been so relieved to see a special ed kid that you impulsively hugged him tight, felt his drool cuff gush gush into the small of your back, and whispered in his ear, "Don't tell your mom?"


I have.







Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ding Don Juan

What is a normal number of microwave popcorn bags for a person to eat in one sitting?
Because the other night I ate four.

I think if someone had been around to do a double take, they might have done a double take.

Double takes are hard to draw.

That alluring kernel of corn reminds me of someone I once loved.


No it doesn't.


I just felt like saying that as a contrived way to start writing about old girlfriends.


Because I had some.


My first real girlfriend made me a mixtape with Billy Joel on it, and I had to pretend to like Billy Joel because she was my girlfriend.


I ate dinner at her house one time.


She was an only child, and her parents were kind of somber people.


Dinner was very quiet, except when I tried to use the salad tongs and salad flew all over everything.


Her father probably looked at me then, with ranch dressing on my chin and lettuce in my lap and thought "this is not a man at my table." 


If he had thrown a ball at me, he would of known for sure, because I suck at catching and throwing.


Men throw me things; keys, pocket knives, deodorants, and these things fumble off my fingers and crash to the floor.


When its time to throw the things back, it gets worse. 


I know it is not correct to say "I throw like a girl", so I will say "I throw like me, and it's not very good at all."


Sometimes I throw too hard and the man I was throwing something to looks way over his head and says "Whoah there, heads up, easy big guy" stuff like that.


Or I underthrow, and the thing travels two feet from me and lands awkwardly equidistant between the man and I. 


The man then has stoop down and scoop it up because I remain frozen; after every throw, I need a little time to get my wind back.


I practice throwing motions sometimes, in the mirror, to try and get it right.

I'm right-handed; should my left arm cling tight to my body when I throw, should it extend behind me? Should it point in the same direction I am throwing?

This is strange, but one time I tried to impress my friends by throwing a pickle at the neighbor's house.

I really felt great, doing that.

It seemed so wild, so impulsive.


The act of a person who is really fun and unpredictable.


But the pickle never made it.


It's a metaphor for that girl and her parents. 

I wanted to be a fun man and fling salad all over their table, but they were the pine trees that stopped the progress of my pickle.


Years later, I watched that girl smoke too much pot, flip out, and throw up everywhere. She threw up a lot of pasta in the woods.


Those same woods were the scene of my first time wiping my bottom with newspaper. 

It didn't feel good, but I was really sick and I needed to go.

A girl I had a crush on was coming out to those woods for a party, and I needed to be able to be comfortable around her.


I once arrived at a girl's house for a date, realized I had to go, made up a story about having to pick someone up from work, left the date, went to a nearby friend's house, pooped there, and then came back to the date a half hour later.

She had fallen asleep on the couch. 


We were just getting to know each other, so I could not snuggle up to her or anything. 

I just sat at the end of the couch, thinking of how romantic I was going to be if she ever woke up.


In love have I,
the fool eternal been,
forever squatting
on couch's end.

But I did gets me a wife.

When I first wanted her to kiss me, I said "Hey, smell my beard."

When I asked her to marry me, I hid the wedding ring up the back of my shirt and asked her to scratch my back. 

As she went to work, the little black case traveled down my back hair and popped out where my shirt had ridden up over my belly. 

"What's this?" she asked.

It's romance, my love, and it has come for your finger.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Intrusive thinking

I'm driving down the road with a feedbag of trail mix wedged between my thighs.


Peanuts and choco buttons rain down through my fingers as I grab the recommended serving size with each dip into the package.

I am less than human as I retrieve each morsel that hits the seat and slides beneath my legs.

No hand is on the wheel, no thought is on the road, all my faculties, all I am, is intent on eating.

"I have a frog in my throat," Jeffrey announces from the passenger seat.

I had almost forgotten he was there.


"Yeah?," (munch)(munch), "what's it saying?" I manage to ask.

He imitates a parrot.

"Rawp, froggy want a cracker. Rawp, froggy want a cracker."

"That's weird."

"Yep," he says.

When we get out of the car, he says goodbye to the calculator I make him leave on the seat.

He opens the door and says goodbye three more times.



One part of his brain forgets to send the "we already said goodbye to the calculator" signal to another part of his brain which releases the "that felt good to say bye to my calculator" chemical to the part of his brain telling him he still needs to say goodbye to his calculator or he won't feel good.

I am the stand-in for the parts of his brain that aren't speaking to each other.

"You already said goodbye. Quit opening and shutting my door."

"Oh. Right." he says, stepping away from the car but still peering longingly into the window.

"Jeffrey, come on. Time for work."

He pries himself away.


There are times in my life I really could have used me as a stand-in for my fractured brain, too.


You know?


I would love to pay me to follow me around and tell me when I am engaged in crazy or harmful behavior, when I am about to spend money frivolously, or have fallen behind in my bills.

 I think I would like to have me wipe me.

Because it can be a real pain to do it myself sometimes, just so very time-consuming.




Though if it were really me taking care of me, I have to be honest and say I have grown a bit lazy over the years, and am not the strapping, able special ed worker I used to be.


To give myself the best possible care, I would need someone to supervise the me taking care of me.

And since most teachers are idiots, I would only permit someone as smart as myself to be my teacher.

So I the teacher, I the paraprofessional, and I the student.



It would get really crowded, because all three of me eat too much trail mix.


Though, like Jeffrey, I used to have this problem called Intrusive Thinking.


My brain told me irrational, often disturbing things, right out of the blue.


Or it told me the traffic light was green after I had already driven through it, and it kept telling me the light was green long after I had gotten to my destination and parked the car.



I discovered that alcohol seemed to stop the problem, but then I had another problem called Alcohol.

Though there was nothing monumental about my descent into, and subsequent rise from, the pit of a drinking problem. 

In fact, my hitting bottom would be almost laughable to many alcoholics, but it was perfectly me.


I came to myself in the dark woods of a local dive bar, surrounded by people I had not seen since high school, and I was pretending to be happy to see them, the alcohol effectively blotting out my normally crippling awkwardness and utter distaste for running into old acquaintances.


It was like getting drunk and rolling around in your high school yearbook, your beer sweat moistening up the signatures and little notes enough to leave them rubbed off on your body.


The "U so crazy in chemistry class what what"s and the "Have a good summer, fat ass"s and the "So glad I got to know you this year"s smeared all over you; the authors, people you barely remember.


You feel so falsely extroverted and dirty.

That's how I know alcohol is evil, at least for me: it makes running into people from high school seem tolerable, almost pleasurable.


There is something deeply wrong with that, something incompatible with who I am as a human person.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A sexy moment

I'm sitting in a cramped little room while a man squirts a dollop of jelly on my wife's stomach.

My two sons watch closely, simultaneously fascinated and repelled.

One of them wants to know if you can eat that stuff.

A picture pops up on a screen over our heads, a picture of the alien-human hybrid flapping around in mommy's womb.




"Is that a penis?" I blurt out, then immediately regret it.

The boys loudly echo me. "Is it a PENIS? Is dere a PENIS? Does it have a PENIS? Where's that PENIS?"

It reminds me of when one of my beloved boys happily chirped "BAGINA! BAGINA!" as we walked our way through a large parking lot and into a church.


Though I had heard the word bagina before, during a sex ed class at the group home.

Our instructor used two stuffed dolls for illustrative purposes.


The man-doll looked like Robert Smith from the Cure and had bizarrely exaggerated genitalia.

The woman could have wandered up from a day of snorting glue deep in the city dump.

She had a Velcro pouch in her belly where you could store her gift of life, a felt potato with a disconcerting smirk drawn on its little face.


"Who can tell me what sexual intercourse is?"

"Its when you go to a dance and you're in love."

This bothered me, because I had been to many dances with these young men, often with very few females in attendance, and they had lined up to dance with me. 


Another boy proudly stated, "Sexis whens da man puts his seed in the womens bagina, and she goes to the hospital."


He had a right to be proud, as he had only recently learned the meaning of sex, and had taken it to heart.

Only a week before, this boy was riding in the car with his social worker, headed out to make a rare visit home.

She noticed he was uncharacteristically excited.

"You happy to go home?" she asked him, smiling.

"Oh yeah, I can't wait fo toonite." He did a little clap with his hands.

"What's going on tonight? Your family have big plans for you?"

"Yep! I'm gonna have sex wit my mom and my sista."

She slowed the car down, short of the highway entrance ramp, and pulled onto the shoulder.

"What?"


It turned out that he had learned you only have sex with people you love, and he had done the necessary calculations to determine who were his suitable sex partners.

I guess it made an awful kind of sense.


But she straightened him out, and the following week, as a room full of developmentally disabled young men pointed in wonder at the monstrous proportions of the sex ed dolls, he was able to bring his expertise to bear.


"Dere it go, wite dere, he gonna put that in her stomach and a little baby comes out da bagina."

Why does the world obsess so much about such a simple thing?

It permeates most of our popular culture, especially here on the Internet, and yet it boils down to the tiniest of events; a frazzled social worker, glasses askew, trying to wedge the stuffed penis of one doll into the bagina of another, and an audience of boys with special needs, rocking in their seats and losing interest.


Seen that way, sex becomes such a silly thing to preoccupy the minds of so many.

The man freezes a frame of the ultrasound and highlights a conspicuous protuberance with a little white arrow.

"You're having a boy."


I so badly wanted a girl.

I wanted to be one of those cranky, eccentric fathers who like to scare away potential suitors.

The plan was already in my head:


He would come to the door in his white tuxedo, bearing a corsage, his hair slicked back with a handful of Pomade. 

Blurry in the background, the elegant lines of the Cadillac borrowed from his father.

"Hello, Mr G."

"Hello, Arthur. She'll be down in a minute."

I take Arthur by the arm and lead him into the den.

"Let's have a little talk, Arthur."

He swallows nervously, and pries his collar a bit off his throat with one finger.

"S-s-ure Mr.G."

I reach into the lowest drawer of my desk and retrieve a shoebox.

Arthur's discomfort is like a third person in the room.



The sex dolls from those days of long ago now stand before him, one in each of my hands.


In falsetto, I start speaking as the woman first.

"Arthur, you're gross. My dad is going to kill you because you have no pants on."

I switch to the man.

"I'm sorry, I am going to run away and be a monk and stay away from everyone's daughters."

"Good idea, freak."

I am so sad when my wife walks in on my little puppet show and sends me to my room.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The job you know


Turned down for another job again, didn't even get to the interview stage.


I ponder this while at the dreaded shoe store.

My hand absently falls to the front of my pants, discovering there the wide gap of an unzipped zipper.


It's because I'm not a professional person, isn't it?


These pants are held closed by a tiny safety pin, having lost their button long ago.


Before I had a belt, I wore a cord around my waist, tied in the front.




What's wrong with me?
Why did I think that was cool?



I'm watching Jeffrey problem solve: 


He keeps turning to look at me.

There is panic in his face.



"Go around," I tell him.


"I know dat," he answers, but he doesn't move.


The rows of tall lady boots topple over like Domino's under Martin's heavy hands.


It always bothered me that in the manual for Super Mario Bros., they use the term "Domino effect" to describe what happens when Mario kicks a Koopa shell into other enemies, and then, in parentheses, say "Ask your parents."


Why?
What is so secret, so taboo, about the Domino effect that it is safeguarded knowledge left to parents to impart?


Why can't I find a job?


Each year that passes, I get older and fatter; the chance of getting hired gets slimmer.


He's a risk to our health insurance.
He doesn't fit into our standard issue office chairs.
His fly was open through the whole interview.
Lets start with a pros and cons list: Was there anything about him that didn't shout "moron"?