Tuesday, March 27, 2018

He Doesn't Like Being With You--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, April 27

     JB had Tom Thursday and Friday and he dropped him off while I was eating breakfast.
     “Did you eat this morning?” I asked.
     “We stopped for donuts,” Tom said.
     “Those aren’t on your bland diet. Remember what the doctor said Monday?”
     “My stomach feels totally fine.”
     “Uh, huh. Did you have a good time with Dad?”
     “We ran errands. That’s about it.”
     “Were you on the computer a lot?”
     “Yeah. Pretty much.”
     “Any pop-ups you didn’t want to see?”
     Tom looked me square in the eye and nodded.
     “Every time I type in www, match.com pops up.”
     I rolled my eyes. “You should say something to Dad.”
     Tom shifted uncomfortably. “I want you to.”
     I grabbed my phone.

     “I don’t want to ask you again to clear your computer history before Tom uses it,” I texted.

     “I did,” JB texted back.

     “He was complaining about match.com popping up every time he typed www.”

     “I wasn’t aware that was happening. The history is clear. I’ll figure it out. I’m sorry.”

     I turned to Tom. Let’s check your grades on Power School. If they’re good, you won’t be grounded anymore.”
     Tom looked sick.
     “Am I not going to like what I see?” I asked.
     “Well, I have a few bad grades.”
     Tom trailed me upstairs. We sat at the computer. He had two “Ds” and a “U.” “U” is middle school's new “F.”
     “What the hell?” I shouted. “I thought you cared about being in the band. Do you not give a shit?”
     Tom stood next to me swallowing hard and blinking.
     “I really hoped for something good here. I hate micromanaging you. I hate it. I know you did the work because I saw it. But you didn’t turn it in. You’re still not turning stuff in. Why?” I was screaming. I didn’t want to lose it, but I had. “You need to establish good work habits. Losers never establish good work habits. You want to be a loser? You want to set a pattern of failure? If you keep flunking, you’ll be a loser.”
     I hated  myself. Tom’s eyes were wide. He was swallowing hard. It was JB’s frozen deer-in-the-headlights look. It repulsed me.
     “I want to lift your grounding,” I shouted. “I wanted to come up here, see decent grades, and tell you you could play with your band. Now you’re grounded for another month. I don’t want to look at you. Go downstairs.”
     Tom stomped down the stairs. I went into my bedroom and sat at the end of my bed breathing hard. I heard Tom talking on the phone. He was probably talking about me to JB and I didn’t care.
     An hour later, I walked into the TV room where Tom was laying on the couch with his cell phone next to him.
     “I’m sorry I yelled,” I said. “I worry about you. Blake didn’t establish good work habits in middle school and it followed him through high school. Now he’s attending a university that takes anyone. You’re both smart boys. I want you to be able to go to any school you want.”
     Tom continued laying on the couch looking sad.
     “Instead of grounding you for another month, why don’t we look at your grades in two weeks. If you can turn things around in two weeks, you won’t be grounded.”
     “Okay,” Tom said. He sat up, the sad look gone.
     “Do you have homework?”
     “Yeah, I should probably go do it.”
     “When you’re done, we’ll get out of here and go to the driving range,” I said.
     “I’ll do it now.”
     Tom went upstairs to his bedroom.
     “You done?” I called up the stairs later.
     Tom didn’t come down so I tromped upstairs. He was laying on his bed looking sad again.
     “What’s wrong?”
     “I don’t like going to Dad’s.”
     “He never does anything with me. He’s on his computer the whole time. All he does is work.”
     “I think you should say something to him.”
     Tom sighed.
     “You want me to do it?”
     Tom nodded. His eyes teared up. “I feel neglected when I’m over there.” He turned his face into his pillow.

     “Tom is tearful, telling me he feels neglected at your house," I texted JB. "He says all you do is work. I’m guessing you’re on your computer for other reasons as well and not paying attention to him. He says when you do do things, it’s errands. He says he doesn’t like being with you.”

     “Ok,” JB texted. “We should talk because he was texting me an earful today about not liking being with you and complaining about how you bad mouth me in his presence and how that bothers him and other things. He's playing us off each other. Which is one of the things that happens. He also said you hit him today and called him a loser. Not saying I believe it all but that's what I'm getting.”

     “I'm sure he wasn't liking me,” I texted. “I was yelling about his grades. I told him if he kept flunking he’d be a loser. A couple of months ago, I shoved his shoulder during a similar blowup. As for bad mouthing you, I bite my tongue until it bleeds. The stuff about feeling neglected, Tom asked me to tell you.”

     “I'm sharing what he told me,” JB texted. “That's all. I felt you should know. I am going to work on spending more quality time with him. Last weekend we spent a lot of time doing schoolwork. And he aced both tests I helped him study for by the way. Yesterday was Friday and I had a lot of work to do in the morning. Took afternoon off. We went for a run. Had lunch and ran errands, including going to Best Buy to get him a phone. I made dinner and we watched the Hawks.”

     I walked into Tom’s room. “Dad said one of the errands you ran was getting you a phone. He said you watched the Hawks game, too.”
     “He watched the Hawks,” Tom answered. “I was on the computer.”
     “Let’s get out of here, go to the driving range.”
     Tom jumped out of bed. We grabbed his clubs and had fun. When we returned, Tom was extremely chatty.
     “My friend Andrew plays bass,” Tom said. “We’ve been talking about playing together.”
     “You should have him over.”
     “And a friend of ours plays drums. I want to start up a band with them."
     “That would be fun, change things up some. Be good for you to jam with other dudes.” 

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