I'm concerned about what kind of mother I am, but the world's a lot worse than me. I carry my dad's beat up black plastic lunchbox. It's shape, like a barn with a round roof, reminds me of the 70's. My husband feels entitled to all the cancer jokes(more) he wants, just because he's dying of it. He takes lots of baths and falls asleep reading lots of books. My daughter never wakes up when I watch her sleep. I never forget to put my gun in my toolbox every day before I go to work. I have hurt men badly, but only nothing compared to what they've done to me. I gave my daughter a boy's name, but she doesn't know it yet. When it's finally time to sleep and I can't, I read a book about fingerprinting techniques--pocket loops, ulnars, ridge counts, and tented arches--and I'm gone. My husband was a historian specializing in ancient Sicily, he hates his Italian family, and he goes to Catholic mass once a year. Hate is maybe too strong a word. Nothing has ever made me feel like an adult. I have spent whole nights listening to him cry from pain. Working nights under the stupefying daylight of sodium lights, all the objects that make up a building seem very theoretical, all the bones inside my body seem like only suggestions for what might be underneath. Sleep is irrelevant. My kid likes McDonald's a lot. There are more refugees around us, and there is more violence on both sides. Aside from driving to work, I try to stay home. I ask my husband to read to me, and he drawls out a few lines, his voice skips and stretches from the pain pills. Something about the Inquisition coming to town. Something aaaaabbbbouuttttt...(less)
I don't know what my dad looked for when he looked out the window. But he spent a long time there, every day, using one smouldering smoke to light the next. He never had work.
His arthritis was bad; all he could do was lean against the counter-top(more). Sitting hurt his hips. His teeth were hidden by his mustache. His goodnight kisses tasted like smoke. Nicotine would turn his fingertips dark brown, like butterscotch. Once in a while he'd take some Javex and soak them, to lighten the stain.
It's hard sometimes, working in mental health housing. Many of the residences do exactly the same thing as my dad used to. They look out the window. Some of them look so attentively out the glass that I often am part-way fooled into thinking someone is coming to pick them up. Of course, there is no one. But they are all waiting for something.
In the evenings they take all the chairs in the lobby and push them near the glass doors. They sit there looking. A few go outside and sit on the stoop. I have to frequently remind them - scold them -to throw their butts into the old tomato-sauce tins we use as ashtrays. Or else our old stoop starts looking downright ghetto.
Once in a perverse mood I dialed up the shelter on Google Maps. I saw the same men, captured in Street View, staring at nothing, idle, waiting, cigarettes in hand.
"What do you SEE?" I asked my dad one morning. I was crunching through my buttered toast in a rush before the schoolbus came. It felt like a dangerous question.
"I saw a small bird go by," my dad said conversationally. "I'm waiting for him to fly back the other way."