June 23, 2000
He's thirteen and a half, which you probably know, and things are happening. So, first thing this morning, when his eyes open and his sheet is as always inexplicably half off his bed, he grabs his CD remote control and pushes play and we hear Fatboy Slim all over the house (same house as always only it's red and yellow now, not blue). He comes downstairs, all arms and legs and skinny, he's tall, taller than me, in his Joe Boxer boxers and sits at the dining room table eating Honey Nut Cheerios and reading yesterday's comics. He has the number 60 on his leg in black marker. That was his number yesterday at the provincial basketball try-outs which he didn't make due to lack of confidence, said the coach, though he's got the moves, and next year he'll be older and ready. It doesn't bug him, none of his friends made it this year, and his school coach had told them they wouldn't but that it would be a good experience. That's what he and his friends said to each other after the try-out. Hey, good experience, eh? Oh yeah, excellent experience. Now that was a good experience! They're pretty funny. Then he goes downstairs and has a shower, listening to Kid Rock, heard of him? Last fall C. and him went to Minneapolis for a Vikings game and Kid Rock was staying in the same hotel, drinking in the bar, but O. was too shy to go up to him and say hello.
There's one song he plays over and over which goes everybody knows my name, say it way out loud, or something like that, over and over, loud while he showers. Sometimes he sings along, but not today. Then he has to decide to wear shorts or jeans because it's June here and you know what that's like. He decides on shorts, long and baggy, with the elastic top of his underwear visible above his shorts, and his shorts low on his hips, and his Nike hooded sweatshirt (he used to boycott Nike and McDonald's but not recently) and his Adidas runners and white socks, and still, in spite of showering, a faded 60 on his leg. His vaguely hairy shin.
He's got a choice this morning for lunch: bagel and cream cheese, turkey sandwich, or peanut butter and banana sandwich. He chooses peanut butter and banana. He plays around with the dog for a while, tells G., his ten-year-old sister (yup, I got pregnant again) who's getting ready for running club, that when HE had running club they ran in the rain because they were tougher back then, and then he checks out his reflection in the toaster oven and off he goes to catch his bus for school. Have a good day, I tell him, and he says you too. I can't call out to him after he's left the house with I love you, or Do you have your lunch? This mortifies him. Later today he's got a different basketball practice for the regional team, which he did make, and he's going to miss his baseball game to go to the basketball practice. His baseball team is called the Sabres, and he pitches and catches, and he's a great pitcher with a wicked curve although he prefers to catch, and if you could see him make the throw from home plate to second you'd know how good he is. Then I guess he'll come home and eat ice cream with chocolate sauce and watch some bad television, he loves the comedy channel, and Letterman, he loves Letterman too and thinks it's cool that Letterman and Nolan Ryan and his grandma all had the same kind of heart surgery, maybe check out something on the net like the phone number of that phone booth in the middle of the desert so he can call it some day and then go to bed after some kidding around and he'll call out from his freshly painted green and charcoal bedroom, hey, whoever put my sheet back on, thanks!
What's he doing at night, what's he dreaming? Do you believe that dreams can be inherited? That they can encode themselves on our DNA and we can give our dreams and our nightmares to our kids? Some people believe it. You and he could be dreaming the same dream one night and the next morning passing each other on the street and not even recognizing each other. Then he'll get up again and come downstairs and tell us he forgot to put his cream on his foot for the athlete's foot he has, and we'll say make sure you keep it clean and dry, and he'll say uh-huh. As for what goes on inside his head, really goes on inside his head, he's a thirteen-year-old boy, you tell me. I remember once you said never uproot a kid in junior high. I won't.
I know you want to know one thing, but I'm not gonna tell you whether he talks about you or not or what he even remembers. I've tried to keep track of you through your brother but I don't think he lives here any more either. A family of gypsies. The last time I saw his wife, she was loading up their kid, who also has red hair, into a minivan right across the street from our house. A cute little kid and I almost called O. over to the window to have a look at his cousin for the first and only time. But I didn't because it seemed too complicated. I don't know. Where do you live? Japan still, or what, Australia? Like you'd tell me. I'm not asking for money, I'm not asking for anything. I just want to tell you about your kid before there's no kid left, and we're both a hundred years old. It seems so stupid not to talk. Keep a stiff upper lip, there are a million things I could tell you, but you don't get to choose.