End of the Day

Sundown now comes before I leave work. Most days I take my bike and have to drive home in the winter darkness. The battery-powered red light in back winks a quick rhythm as I skirt the edge of a four-lane avenue, crowded with fast-moving cars.

I must be mad to still bike in Southern California. Most people give it up once they get hit by a car. But I still live in idealistic disharmony with the world around me.

Portrait

It takes ten minutes to get home. My kids have been done with Catholic school for a couple of hours and my 86-year-old mother is watching them. She doesn’t have to watch them but she likes to. It’s a break for being at home all day and putting up with my dad.

I can’t decide whether people in long marriages who live together until they expire make perfect sense or if they require a huge act of will. Someone did a study. It showed divorce rates go up after people retire. Now that would make perfect sense. ‘Living with you was fine when you were away at work most of the time!’

My parents are about to have their 60th anniversary. How do they do it? Maybe I’ll find out. Time for a drink.

I rattle two ice cubes at the bottom of a cocktail glass as I reach for a 1.75 liter bottle of Tangueray. I measure two drams. I always measure. The gin soaks the ice cubes so they lose their frosty sheen and make gentle cracking sounds. I add tonic (don’t measure) and finally the crucial garnish; a wedge of fresh lime which I squeeze to release its nectar before I drop it in the drink. I have a lime tree in a big pot out in front in case of emergencies.

The Tangueray dulls my senses and my mind takes a walk. I think of last Saturday when I took my son to apply for St. Augustine High School. He’s in 8th grade and we’re trying to figure out what the next step is.

When I went to pick him up I saw Nicholas in the courtyard of Vasey Hall, standing alone as usual. He waved to me and I saw him in the context of the other kids. He’s handsome. He’s unathletic. His khaki pants ride high on his waste and he looked like he wished he were someplace else.

I had been dreading this part of the application process because this was the interview. My son is shy and quiet, and he’s not a talker. He should be talking to his friends about girls and sports, and he should be able to turn that on when a school counselor asks him why he wants to go to Saints. Everybody calls St. Augustine Saints. But Nicholas is not a normal kid and that’s something I’ve known for years.

How did it go? I asked.

I don’t know, he said.

But then he tells me he didn’t think it went very well.

In the kitchen at home my dog stares at me, yearning for something. He has a sweater my wife knitted for him, and I imagine taking him for a walk in it. But it’s hard enough for me to be seen with a small Chinese lap dog in public. Maybe I should have another shot of gin since the first two felt so good, though I know that’s almost always a mistake.

My wife comes home. The kids are finished with homework and they start asking for things. My daughter wants to use the TV in the adjoining family room so she can watch Buddies, a series of shows about talking dogs you can get on Netflix.

No! I tell her, you are not going to chase me out of the kitchen with your show about talking dogs!

Now I’m having cheese and crackers and a glass of wine. And it drives me crazy listening to the banal dialogue they write for kids’ programs like Buddies. I have already spent too much time watching Golden Retriever pups with their mouths computer animated as they talk, being pursued by bad guys who want to capture and sell them as pets for some mean fat kid. I remind myself my daughter is only 9.

I start thinking about drugs for some reason. What drives a person to drugs. Despair? I was talking with a guy on the street in Minneapolis and that’s what he told me. But that’s a despair I’ve never known. And I know this as I look around my house at the end of a working day where my daughter is waiting to watch an episode of Buddies.

Me, I can’t really complain.

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One Comment on “End of the Day”

  1. Vicki Estrada Says:

    Hey Tom,
    Very well written. I was transported into your shoes and could feel your experience. I think you know where the line is between being really addicted and just needing somyething to get one through the physical and emotional pain of the the day.

    I was also very quiet and shy until my 3rd year in college. I learned to speak when I needed to without being obnoxious. I still have shy moments, especially at gatherings with lots of people I don’t know. But no one would call be shy anymore. I would expect your son to become more social. Fear of peer pressure criticism is so powerful at that age. I know. You choose to be quite rather than risk that! The middle school years are tough for kids as hormones rage and body and mind changes are the norm.

    Hang in there my friend. I will have a Bailey’s on the Rocks while you drink your Tangueray some day. You are a good man. Oh, only have one Tangueray and lime per day… But you know that.


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