Life with Teenagers

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wrap me in a blanket

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It’s the end of another weeknight train commute home and J and I perform the same ritual as always. Both of us stand at the open hallway closet, only moments since entering the front door through the garage, and we take off shoes. Mine are complicated tonight. They are new and stiff and have a zipper on the back of the heel that only seems to be working on the left one. I stand balanced on my right foot with my right hand yanking at the zipper and with my free arm I simultaneously haul my orange leather handbag onto the kitchen counter. J has managed to stretch over me to slide the brown paper Hang Tai bag onto the counter at the same time. It sits at eye level with my contorted body- a neat compact square with the top folded over and stapled shut. I can smell the contents and I’m ready to rip it open right now, only the house is cold and we haven’t changed out of work clothes. I pry free both shoes and whip them into the closet and immediately open kitchen cabinets to find our yellow oval plates and place them side by side near the microwave.

“It’s here,” says J still standing in the doorway.

I see the Amazon box on the floor. It’s our third coffee maker in a matter of months. The recent Mr Coffee sits like a sentinel watching over the kitchen table. One of the teens seems to be using it, even though the addicted adults in the house have long since given up in disgust. I sometimes check the filter compartment in the morning and I find drying coffee grounds from the day before and a half full pot of cold coffee.

“Do you have high hopes?” J asks me as she starts tearing at the top of the box.

I don’t answer because I’m busy looking for our deep bowls, the ones specifically made for ice cream or cereal that are adorned with ornate Turkish or Indian designs on the outside. We don’t have any Chinese dish ware, but I want something to make this meal feel more important than one that is hastily dumped out of plastic containers.

I pour the silky contents into each bowl. Sliced mushrooms bob around in the shiny brown liquid next to tough fibrous matchsticks of chinese root vegetable. A heady, fragrant steam rises from each plate. There is just enough room for me to add a squat brown tube glistening with fryolater grease next to each bowl. I fight the urge to take the meal into the bedroom on a tray and plop it down on top of the comforter while I burrow like a mole beneath layers of sheets and cotton blankets. Instead, I heat up the plates in the microwave and set them on our glass-topped kitchen table that has a view to the garden. I arrange three wire candle holders with tea lights in the center of the table, grab cloth napkins from the basket and dim the overhead lights.

I sit at the table and wait for J to return from changing to join me. The heat has since kicked on in the house and the Native American dream catcher with the long eagle feathers that J has hung from the ceiling begins to undulate in and out. I stare dismally out the window. It’s late May, post Memorial Day weekend, and it’s cold, gray and freezing outside. A raw rainy mist hovers over the perennials which have started to burst forth from the ground but keep to themselves in contained bundles, not yet daring to stretch and collapse over each other in their usual tangled and languorous mess of color. The plants look as skeptical as I feel, like they just can’t bring themselves to trust the air and instead recoil tightly, stretching only upward toward the fickle sun, exposing bare circles of earth around themselves in a protective ring.

The teens are both home. I can see their cars in the driveway just beyond the garden, and if I listen intently, I can make out some muffled voices and the low rumble of a bass guitar. Both are already well into their summer lifestyle that consists of sleeping until the outer edges of the afternoon and driving away to places unknown after their work shifts. If they bring friends home, they all stay below and I usually regret later my awkward pajama-clad mom greeting at the basement entrance to a roomful of strange large male bodies and an occasional lithe female one in a very small shirt, lounging on the couch surrounded by amps and guitars and various open bags of fast food purchases. Better to stay in my sphere tonight, I think.

When J returns to the table, we slurp our hot and sour soup in silence, sniffles being the only sound as the steam and spices fill our nostrils.

After a while, J asks again, “So, do you have high hopes? We can’t keep buying our coffee at Panera every morning and just barely making the train. This is nuts.”

“Why don’t we try making a cup tonight?” I say, eyeing the hulking mass of coffeemaker number three looking imposing next to the sink and hanging over the silverware drawer.

J immediately gets into action grinding beans and I turn to the laptop I’ve left on the chair, grab it open, and start mindlessly liking posts on facebook, changing my profile picture for the millionth time and checking my gmail account. I anxiously resist the pull of the bed.

I’ve largely spent the last three months of late winter into spring under covers. I’m happiest in the safe realm of our large kingsize bed, surrounded by pillows, my computer and cellphone nearby, and with a book on the nightstand. J has been non judgmental in her cheerful delivery of oversized paper cups of Panera coffee to me on a tray on weekend mornings. I manage to stand up eventually, close to noon, just long enough to scramble us eggs and slice avocados and bring the plates back to bed. The robins dive-bombing at the window screen and the spring sunlight dancing on the newly unfurled vine leaves are no deterrent to my slothful non agenda.

“Remember this day,” I said to J last weekend as she was gathering up the Sunday paper, dishes, used napkins and coffee cups strewn about on our large expanse of mattress. “This is the day I never get out of bed again, the first day it happens.”

“Cut that out,” she said.

It has become a running joke with us. It started from my habit of watching too many late night reality TV shows over the winter when I couldn’t sleep. I watched alone in rapt attention as morbidly obese people were airlifted from their bedrooms and transported to a hospital for their miracle surgery, suddenly hopeful for life after years of eating themselves numb and comforted under debilitating fat.

Now as J starts brewing us a cup of coffee, I flip through my text messages to see if my ex has answered the ones I sent him on the train.

Have you seen the kids? I typed.

Nope. Not in a while, You? he typed back.

We are getting hot and sour soup and an eggroll tonight. screw the gym. too cold out. I texted back.

sm. veg. delight. sm white rice. jumbo fried shrimp. harry potter dvd. Under quilt. WTF? isn’t it almost June? he texted back.

J interrupts my cellphone perusal and hands me a coffee cup.

“What do you think? she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say after taking a small sip. “Seems a bit thin. Might be ok. Let me try it again.”

But I’m distracted and taking too long. I’m thinking about the yoga class I’m planning to attend the next day, where I will once again make an effort to listen to the little voice inside that I have squashed down to barely a whisper. Lately, just as the plants have no real choice but to tentatively emerge from the ground, my inner voice of unrest and suppressed action is starting to speak a little louder. I can almost hear it. I might even be ready to pay attention to it finally. But not tonight.

J takes a another sip and dumps the coffee into the sink.

“It’s going back,” she says.

“I’m going back too,” I say. “To the bed. I’m cold. Come wrap me in a blanket.”


Written by kmguay

May 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm

i can’t put it into words

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I can hear the low rumble of the harley starting up in the garage. It’s late morning, almost afternoon, and I’m still in my oversized pajama bottoms and a wrinkled t-shirt. I’m gathering up supplies from the kitchen to take with me to the basement. I’ve got a roll of paper towels, the antiseptic wipes, and a couple of dry dish towels in one hand and my cell phone in the other. The older teen left the house hours earlier. I watched him shuffle out to the car – barefoot and in boxers – while I quietly stood at my usual spot in front of the kitchen sink in full view of the hummingbird feeder and the driveway beyond.

“I’m worried about him,” I said to my partner who was sliding by in socks on the kitchen floor carrying her motorcycle boots in her hand. I hadn’t shifted my locked gaze from the tiny whirring wings and iridescent green hovering outside the window, my hands on the edge of the sink, my feet fidgeting around in my flip flops.

“I think he will be ok. He is the one left behind. Just give him some time,” she said, opening up the closet and grabbing the gloves from the top shelf before exiting through the kitchen door.

I’ve been walking around with my smartphone for the past 24 hours, leaving it to rest on counter tops or tables and picking it up to carry it with me from room to room. And sure enough, there’s another text.

“Did you find my calculator?” the text reads. I slide it open to the keyboard and begin to type back.

“Yes. Your father is bringing it with him tomorrow when he comes with your brother. What are you doing?” I don’t expect another text for hours but instead it’s instant.

“I’m going to look for my classrooms today.”

“Good.” I text back. “Try to have some fun too, ok?”

The dog is now barking, the harley is slowly making its way down the driveway, and I snap the smartphone shut. On my way downstairs, I grab a pile of folded laundry from the washer top and carry it with me. In the teen’s old bedroom, a shaft of light from the half window way up by the ceiling shines a small square onto the edge of the bed. I get to work stripping sheets, dusting shelves, gathering up socks from the floor, gathering up discarded soda and ice coffee plastic cups, pulling shoeboxes down from the bookshelves. On my knees, I reach way behind the headboard and pull up three empty bottles one at a time that were wedged out of view. Raspberry Bombay Sapphire. Jack Daniels. And some kind of diminutive lemon vodka thing now line up in a row on the bed. I empty the contents of the shoeboxes, too. Bubble wrapped glass blown bongs and pieces of flat colored glass fill one. Old empty cigarette boxes, clear plastic baggies, toothbrushes, and various flotsam and jetsam fill the others.

Well, at least it all was left behind at home. I say this out loud to nobody. I was there when we unpacked his dorm room. I was there when he piled his books in a neat pile on his desk, when he unpacked his toiletries in a row on his closet shelf.

The smartphone buzzes on the top of the bureau.

“I had a bag of stuff from Orientation and it had a book about the history of Lowell and I need it for my writing class.” reads the text.

“I will look for it but I think I threw it away over the summer,” I text back.

I snap the smartphone shut and get back to work vacuuming, arranging the older teen’s books and awards onto the empty shelves, hanging up movie posters, making up the bed. A large bag of trash is ready to be brought to the garage. The younger teen’s paraphernalia is boxed up and hoisted into the back room. I stand back and admire my work just as the older teen makes his way downstairs carrying a pizza box and a large drink container with a straw.

“Hey, check out the room, what do you think?” I call out from the open door. He peeks his head in and looks around quick with a blank expression.”See, I moved your film stuff and your posters too.”

“Yeah, I’ll probably move that one.” he says. “I like Daniel Craig but I don’t want to wake up every day looking at him.”

“Ahh, yes,” I reply. I catch him looking quick at the framed photograph of the two brothers on the beach that I left on the bureau. Now it’s his bureau. I see him wipe his eye with the back of his hand and turn away from me.

“You don’t like the room? Now you get the good bed,” I say trying to sound cheerful.

“It’s good mom, but… I don’t know. I can’t put it into words. My best friend left for college and I’m still here. It’s hard,” he says as his voice cracks.

“I know, honey, but its…” I stop myself before going any further. He’s already into the other room now. Headphones are on, pizza box is on the coffee table, video game joystick in hand.

“Thanks for cleaning mom but can you go now?” he says and his face is fixated on the TV screen.

Yeah. I can go now, I guess. The younger teen has gone, and the older one has yet to find his way still, but I hope that one day soon he will. And I feel like a chapter has just ended and I’m not ready for it to be over right now, or something like that.

I just can’t put it into words.

Written by kmguay

September 2, 2013 at 2:31 am

a little love

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“You sure you like the tree?” I ask nobody in particular as I set down my plate at the table. The new Christmas tree is adorned with a multitude of white lights and a few ornaments I stole from my ex’s stash. “Come over with your ornament box,” I pleaded to him in my cellphone the day before as I was snapping the three prelit pieces of plastic splendor together in my new living room. “Hey, I watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas with the boys this year and I really enjoyed it,” my ex replied with enthusiasm. I was focused on bending my tree’s wire branches into position. “Uh huh… so I think there are some I want and you’re not using them, right? And come over now if you can, I want your opinion,” I said. I clipped the cellphone shut, plugged in the cord, and stood back to get a better view.

The glow of the tree’s millionth mini light bulb gave it an overall neon look, less like the “faintly-reminiscent-of-snow covered” look it had in the Big Lots store. It was now looking even more fake than I thought.

“Mom, the tree is fine. At least you got a tree. I can’t believe you were thinking of skipping it. You can’t have Christmas without a tree,” says the younger teen walking past me with his plate of food in his hand. Across the table, the tea light candles shimmer in the new mercury glass holders and cast a glow on my partners face as she nods in agreement. It’s dusk outside on a mild December day and the horizon glows pink in the spaces between the pine trees in the far back yard. Two boxwood wreaths in each window, designed to match the ones from the page I tore out of the Olive and Cocoa catalog, hang from a red grosgrain ribbon. A green blinking triangle starts to form in the very corner of my eye, and I try to pretend I don’t really see the artificialness of the tree.

The younger teen plops himself down at the head of the long rectangular table and puts his plate down on the mat just as I’m sliding it into place. This is the room where my partner has traditionally hosted large dinner parties and holidays and the three of us now look slightly lost. We are crowded over at one end of the table, a large plate of italian sausage and white beans before us, the place settings flanked by cloth napkins, and the table center studded with three small flickering candles.

“Do you think you added enough olives to this, mom?” asks the younger teen creating a brown cone-shaped pile on the edge of his plate.

This recipe has olives and capers to give it that salty taste,” I say to him. “You like the rest of it though, right? You are eating the escarole right now.”

“Hey! what about me?” asks the older teen now emerging from the basement and sniffing out the smells of dinner wafting from the kitchen stove.

“Go get yourself a plate,” I say to him. “But I”m not sure you will like it.”

“Mom, can we order the IPad now? I can show you the one I want,” says the younger teen.

“Hey, I left my Christmas list on the table too, did you see it, Mom?” asks the older teen.

“Do you like the tree?” I ask him as he sits at the table beside me.

Without looking up from his plate he says, “It’s great. Nice tree.”

“Should I put it in an envelope and send it to Santa?” ribs my partner directing her fork toward the older teen across the table.”

“Yah? you think you’re funny, huh J dog? And you over there, son, don’t say anything or I’ll hurt you,” he says, looking at his younger brother.

I tune out the flurry of Christmas list conversation and remember my mom’s text message to me as I walked the aisles of the Big Lots store days before. “I can’t believe you are shopping at Big Lots, you have changed.”

And she is right, in a way. A lot has changed this year. It’s been five months since my teens and I moved in to my partner’s house down the street from my old apartment. The house is different, the tree is artificial, and we are ordering high-tech toys from my laptop computer at the dinner table with a credit card and calling it Christmas cheer. But what’s really new is that I don’t know when I’m going to muster up some holiday spirit this year. And maybe it’s ok if I don’t try to fake it. Maybe it will arrive magically over dinner on Christmas day, when we all sit together sharing a meal like this one, and the sun sets in the backyard, the candles start glowing, and we are all suddenly and brilliantly reminded of how grateful we are to have each other. The same as always.

“Yeah that’s better,” I think to myself and look directly at the bright spectacle in the corner. I conjure up images of Charlie Brown and his unadorned real tree in contrast to my spanking new, pre-lit fake one.

It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.

Written by kmguay

December 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm

hook me up with a pink lady

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“Boys, come join us. Dinner is ready,” I say, poking my head into the TV room through the doorway. My girlfriend is already sitting at the round table in the kitchen. In front of her is a large white plate with a small mound of yellow spanish rice piled on one side.

“What’s this?” asks the younger teen who has arrived at the table first.

“We’re having chicken fajitas,” I say, motioning to the big fry pan on the stove. Tri-color peppers and onions with strips of white chicken breast sizzle in olive oil. “There is no salsa.”

“No salsa!” he exclaims.

I start handing out warm tortilla rounds from the oven and depositing them one at a time onto plates.

“Try some avocado or use hot sauce or have a lime wedge,” I say as I spoon the chicken pepper mixture onto the plates.

“Hot sauce, dog,” says the older teen simultaneously sitting in his chair and shaking drips from the miniature bottle with the round red cap onto his rice.

“So mom, Greg wants to go to Loon Mountain this time,” says the younger teen.

“What about Wachusett? I ask.

“We always go there and Greg got his board stolen last time.”

“That’s a whole day trip and it will cost more for lift tickets,” I say. “Does anyone want sour cream?”

“That’s disgusting mom,” says the younger teen.

“Dude, you have more rice than me,” says the older teen craning his neck over his plate to get a better look at his brother’s plate.

My girlfriend is silently eating her fajita wrap across the table from me. I catch her eyes just at the moment she reaches for her balled-up tissue by her wine glass and turns her head away to sneeze.

“You can have some of mine if you can figure out how to get it on your own plate, dog.” says the younger teen.

He turns to me.”So do I have to pay for some of it?”

“Yes, you do. Time maybe for you to get that job, huh. What about Market Basket? I ask.

“I wish I could just work at Shaws instead,” he says making a sour face.

“Not going to happen, dude, forget it” says the older teen.

“What’s wrong with Market Basket? I’d go to Market Basket if it wasn’t so far,” I say.

“No you wouldn’t, Mom. Don’t lie. You shop at Whole Foods,” says the younger teen.

“Yeah and Whole Foods is right near Market Basket,” says the older teen. I look over at the smug face catching his mother in an awkward moment.

“Well I shop at Whole foods for some things,” I say defensively, “But then I go to Shaws to fill in the rest.”

“Fill in the rest?! There is never any food in this house. What do you fill in? olives?” asks the older teen.

My girlfriend lets out a chuckle just before she reaches to sneeze again in her tissue.

And why is everything organic anyway? Whats that about?” he says.

“Dude,” says my girlfriend. “Your mother just wants to give you some decent food when you are with her. That chicken you just ate was a free range chicken. So it got a chance to peck at its seeds and walk around in the yard before it was dinner.”

“It still got it’s head chopped off anyway,” says the younger teen.

“Yeah, but it had some life. Better than spending all its days in a dark room unable to move, right? I say.

“I guess,” says the younger teen. “Is there any dessert?” he asks.

“We’re having some chocolate orange hazelnut panforte that we made on New Years Eve, want to try it?” I ask and hand him a dark brown wedge studded with white half moons of hazelnut and dusted with powdered sugar. He takes a tiny bite.

“It tastes like orange peels. Gross,”he says.

“Yeah and what can I have? asks the older teen.

“I have Fig Newmans?” I say.

“What’s this? he asks standing at the microwave and lifting an apple up in the air for all to see.

“Oh that’s a good apple, dude.” says his brother getting up off his chair. “I’ll cut it for us.”

“It’s a pink lady,” I say. “It’s organic. From Whole Foods.”

“Hook me up with a pink lady” says the older teen. “Hey, wait! Make sure you give me half, dude.” He stands up and nudges the other teen at the cutting board.

“Dude! I’m doing it. Move!”

“Ok, this is a true sign of the apocalypse,” says my girlfriend taking a bite out of her wedge of panforte. “Forget the four horsemen. The teens are fighting over an apple.”

“Wow, this is a good apple.” say the teens almost in unison now back at the table again.

“See? doesn’t the organic food taste better? I ask. The room is silent. Both teens crunch into their apple slices.

But the truth is, the organic food doesn’t always taste better. This is evidenced by the butterball turkey my mom probably bought at Market Basket, the one that tasted ten times better than the free range brined turkey I bought for double the price at Whole Foods the year prior. But I made myself a vow when I left my last relationship and ventured out on my own in this rented house with the teens. I vowed to shop at Whole Foods as often as I could. Because the food is organic. Because the cleaning supplies smell awesome and are better for the environment. Because I like the shopping experience in the store better.

It’s just a little bit of luxury in the form of pink lady apples for me and my kids. And why not? We’re worth it.

Hook me up, dog.

Written by kmguay

January 7, 2010 at 2:33 am

Posted in family, teenagers

what is wrong with my hair?

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The December sunlight streams through the slatted shades. The dog lies curled on his blue blanket. My youngest teen is sitting in the easy chair by the window with a macbook on his lap.

“Mom, it’s going to be $54.95 for more ram. Can I use your credit card?” he asks.

“My wallet is in my black bag,” I say, shifting my slippered feet onto the coffee table and pulling the wool blanket over my legs. The light in the room is exquisite and I don’t feel like moving except to maybe adjust my ball cap one more time and gather all my hair, pulling it through the half moon of the back into one curly ponytail while tightening the strap.My parents matching black wheelie-bag suitcases line up against the white wall. From where I sit, I can see the remains of our breakfast- a half-eaten apple, cherry and cheese pastry ring, and coffee cups still littering the dining table.

“It’s called the Elephant Bar,” says my father sitting in front of the PC on the desk in the dining room.

“Oh, the one we were thinking of was called the Elephant Walk“, I say.

“Yeah, I thought it wasn’t that big of a chain,” says my girlfriend sitting beside me on the couch. “I know there are few in the Boston area, but not Florida.”

“Pat, it’s called the Elephant Bar,” says my father again to my mother as she walks by the computer desk to stand in front of the large wall mirror in the dining room.

“What is wrong with my hair?” she asks the room. “It used to be thick like A’s,” she looks directly at the three of us flopped over the couch and chairs in the other room, “but now its feeling thin all of a sudden.”

“Patty, they have sushi style tuna for Barbara,” my father says again.

I take my ball cap off and let my hair fall in front of my eyes.

“What do you want to do today?” I ask my girlfriend and start listing the possibilities.

“Why don’t we wait until your parents leave,” she says.

“Mom, is the shipping address the same as the billing address? asks my teen.

“Yes,” I say to him.

“And what is the security code?” he asks.

My girlfriend gets up off the couch to show him the back of the credit card. I grab all of my hair in one fist and hold it above my head.

“I need to get this hair cut,” I say. “Maybe I should call the salon and see if Anthony can fit me in today.” I get up off the couch and take the cordless phone with me on the way to the bathroom. I put the phone down on the sink and peer into the bathroom mirror at my roots.

“Oh my god. Look at these roots!” I say.

I grab a swath of hair from my head and hold it in the air while returning to the bright light of the dining room again, passing my parents still huddled over the restaurant menu displayed on the computer monitor.

“Will you look at this hair?” I ask my girlfriend, bending over the couch with a fistful held high so she can see.

“Wow,” she says. “It’s a straight line.”

“I’d be completely white if I didn’t color this hair.”

“What’s wrong with that? asks my white-haired smirking father from the computer desk.

“I’m too young for this,” I reply disgusted and flop back down on the couch. I let go of my hair again and let it fall around my face and into my eyes in a tangle.

“You look just like you did when you were a little girl and you just woke up,” says my mother joining the conversation.
And to my girlfriend she turns and says, eyeing my feet that are now back on the coffee table “Do you like her slippers?”

“The thing is, I just did them. 70 bucks. And now I have to do them again. I should just pay the teen over there,” I say motioning to him still on the easy chair with his head fixated on the laptop screen.

“Mom, I can’t do your roots. I have to keep my dignity,” says my teen.

I look over at my girlfriend.

“Well… ” she says.

“Honey, you’d do my roots for me? How romantic!” I whisper while jabbing her in the side.

“Well, I can give it a try.” she says.

“I’m worried about Grandpa,” says my mother now walking over to the mirror again. “He’s not coming to Florida. He says he is comfortable being at home. Staying right where he is.”

My father gets up from the computer to stand next to my mother.

“Poppy, will you look at my hair? What the heck happened to it?” she asks.

From my spot on the couch I can see the computer monitor which has just switched back from the restaurant website to the family slideshow flipping through the very recent photos of Thanksgiving day dinner. Fifteen people at my dinner table and nearly four generations. And how is it that my youngest child can barely fit on the chair anymore? That my parents are on their way back to their golf course in Florida? That I insist on a little plate of black olives, celery and carrot sticks in the middle of a beautifully set table at Thanksgiving to help me remember my grandmother, that my own teenage self is more and more a distant memory?

“We had a nice visit,” says my mother gathering up some things from the table to add to her bag.

We did have a nice visit, I think to myself as I soak in the moment, the light, the laziness of a Saturday afternoon on the couch in December with a houseful of family.

“But now its time for us to go back to Floreeeda where it’s warm.” says my mother. “Poppy, we have to go back where its warm.”

And it is time. Time for the older teen to come home from drivers ed class. Time for me and my girlfriend to plan our day. Time for me to get the house back in order, to get ready for the coming week, to do a million things that adults have to do.

But first, I really need to take care of this hair.

Written by kmguay

December 9, 2009 at 2:54 am

Posted in family, holiday, mothers

who wants a roll?

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From my family to yours. Happy Thanksgiving

Written by kmguay

November 23, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Posted in family, holiday

Tagged with , ,

away we go

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“I’m going to take him out one more time,” says my girlfriend crouching down in the kitchen fastening a leash to the dog’s harness. I catch a glimpse of them on my way by in the hallway that connects my bedroom to the TV room. I’m carrying my square red kilim hassock over my head and twisting my body sideways to fit through the doorway. I do a quick scan of the teen TV room as I plop the hassock down in front of the couch. Piles of school books lean against the leather chair in the corner, glasses are strewn about on the floor. I count seven. The quilt I just washed is bunched up under the table by the window. And two grayish popovers, that at one time were socks, balance on the outdoor lawn furniture tables the older teen has been using as a catch-all for used tissues, red riccola wrappers and toenail clippings. I clear off the tables and carry all seven glasses to the kitchen sink.

“Mom, I’m going to go skate,” says the younger teen now materializing from out of nowhere and zipping up his black and multicolor hooded skateboarding jacket with the fleece lining and peering into an open refrigerator.
“It’s dark out and it’s cold. Where are you going?” I ask, my back to him, turning the flame off under the teapot on the stove.
“Just to Horace, mom, we don’t have school tomorrow and I already did all my homework.”
“Be back at 10pm,” I say and away he goes, breezing past my girlfriend now back in the kitchen with a spinning dog at her feet. I pour boiling water into two cups adorned with green wrappers hanging by strings that read sadaf. I place two small cookies that look like cake mounds coated with shiny white icing and tiny rainbow colored balls the size of kosher salt sprinkles on a plate as my girlfriend stretches over my shoulder to grab the dog treats from the cabinet above me.

I take a cup and a plate and lead the way into the TV room. “What shall we watch?” I say, pointing to the remote control, covering the two of us with the quilt as we flop on the couch. I flip open the cellphone that is buzzing in my pocket. The text reads: “What time do I need to be home and can you pick me up?”
“I’m watching a movie,” I text back. ” When it’s over.”
The credits start but I’m still looking at my cellphone, scrolling through the unerased messages. Earlier in the day, my friend called me at work to say that one of her friends had just died.
“What? but we just found out about the hospice. How could this happen so fast?” I asked.
“Yeah, I know. I thought I’d have more time to talk to her,” she said. “Now she is gone.”
I stare at a text of the details now on the tiny lit up screen in the dark. It reads: The wake is Friday. The funeral is Saturday. I read the text a few more times and look over at my girlfriend on the couch beside me.
“This is the best cookie ever,” she says to me. I grab her hand under the quilt and flip the phone closed shut with the other.

Soon the younger teen is back opening the door a crack. “You’re watching a movie?” he says.
“Looks that way doesn’t it” I reply.
“Mom, Greg’s sister is 18 and she has her license.” He has moved into the room fully and sits across from us on the leather chair. “So tomorrow a bunch of us are thinking of going into Boston and”
“No,” I say.
“Mom, why not? We’re going to go skate.”
“You are too young for Boston. Just no.”
“Time for popcorn!” my girlfriend says pausing the movie.
“Yes, good idea,” I say. “We’ll talk about it later.” And away we go, teen storming out of the doorway putting his jacket back on, me off of the couch heading in the direction of the kitchen with the dog following behind.

I pour oil in my big dutch oven pan and listen to a rainfall of popcorn kernels hitting the bottom as I cover it completely, turn the flame to high, and leave the lid on askew. I search the cabinets for salt and melt a pat of butter in the microwave in a plastic measuring cup with a spout. My cellphone vibrates again and it’s my older teen.
“Mom, her mom says I need to leave at 10:00 and if you don’t get me I have to walk.”
“I don’t want you walking.” I say. “Why can’t she just drive you home now?”
“She’s in her pajamas and she wants to go to bed and she can’t leave us alone downstairs.”
I look down at my own red flowered flannel pajamas and dump the popped corn from the overturned pot into a big metal mixing bowl. I look at the clock on the wall. 9:35.
“Ok, I’ll pick you up at 10:00. Be ready.” I shake salt, pour the butter and carry the bowl back to the TV room.

My girlfriend reaches for the bowl and unpauses the movie. On the screen the main female character is sitting next to the main male character and she is saying something like:

“I think we might be fuck-ups.”
“No we are not fuck-ups,” he says back to her gently.
“I think we might be,” she says back. “We might be fuckups.”

I look at my girlfriend and grab a handful of popcorn. “Do you think I said no to him too fast? I didn’t let his brother go into Boston alone until this past year though.”
Through her crunching it sounds like she says, “I don’t think you handled it wrong.” But I decide not to ask again because my cellphone is vibrating.
“Mom, I think you should come get me now. She doesn’t want me here anymore.” reads the text.
“I have to go pick up a teen,” I say to my girlfriend. She pauses the TV again and gathers cups and plates while starting to rise from the couch. I pass the younger teen on my way to the front door searching for my keys. He is brooding in the dark on my couch and texting on his cellphone.
“Is everyone going to Boston tomorrow?” I ask.
“Don’t know” he mutters.
I stand in the dark waiting for something more to say but realize that no matter what he decides to tell me, my answer will still be no. I can feel my resolve as palpable as even his brooding silence.

Finally I say, “I have to go pick up your brother now.” And away I go.

Written by kmguay

November 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm