Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shithead--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, May 10

     Tom started moaning the moment I woke him for school.
     “I can’t move,” he panted and screwed up his face. “It hurts too bad.”
     I pulled the covers off him. “I believe you can sit up.”
     Tom made a feeble attempt to sit and failed.
     “Give me your hand,” I said.
     Tom slowly reached his arm toward me and I pulled him up to sitting. He groaned.
     “Swing your legs off the bed.”
     Tom gingerly pivoted. I took him by the arm and hoisted him to standing. Tom’s knees buckled and he fell to the floor.
     “Get up Tom. I’m not buying it.”
     “But it really hurts Mom.”
     “I hurt every day. Every single day. If I let aches and pains stop me I’d never do anything. Get up.”
     “I need help,” Tom said, reaching out his hand.
     I took Tom’s hand and lifted him up.  He teetered unsteadily. He grabbed the handrail near the top of the stairs. He inched forward slowly, shuffling his feet toward the top of the staircase.
     “I’m putting your breakfast on the table,” I said over my shoulder as I went down past him.
     Tom slowly thumped behind me. He sat at the table and moaned.
     “I’ll give you an Aleve after breakfast—if you need one,” I said.
     Tom shot me a pathetic look. “I need one.”
     Getting Tom dressed was slow and tedious, but we eventually walked out of the house.  Tom stopped behind the car.
     “I can’t walk anymore,” he said. “You’ll need to carry me.”
     “You’re kidding me, right?”
     Tom shook his head slowly. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to get out of the car or walk into school.”
     I sighed. “Get back in the house and go to bed. You better stay there all day. I have to meet someone right now. You better be in bed when I get back.”
     “Where are you going?”
     “Starbucks. I’m getting my Lewis Black tickets from Tanya. But I’ll be back soon.”
     Tom quickly limped into the house.
     I ordered coffee and told Tanya about Tom.
     “I could always tell the night before that Joss wasn’t going to school,” Tanya said. “She did really bad the year Larry died. Her teachers just wanted her to get through the year. They said the next year would be better. She’s taking honors classes in high school now. She wants to go to college in London.”
     “I don’t want Tom to develop bad work habits. We need to do our jobs when things suck, when we don’t feel like it.”
      “He needs to know it’s okay to feel bad, to feel sad, to take a day off,” Tanya said. “Just do something fun with him and forget about school for today.”
     “Thanks. You’re right.”
     Tom was upstairs sitting at the computer when I got home.
     “Come into my room,” I said.
     Tom looked at me warily. He followed me into my room. I flopped down on my bed and patted it. Tom sat down.
     “This divorce has been hard on me,” I said, tearing up. “I try to be strong for you, not show how bad I feel, but there’ve been days when I dropped you off at school, crawled back into bed, and cried. I’ve taken days off. You’re feeling like that now, aren’t you? Your legs are fine but you can’t deal with going to school, right?”
     Tom nodded. We both started crying.
     “I’ve had angry days, too,” I said. “Your father is lucky he didn’t walk in front of my car those days. I think I would have run him over. I took a walk in the woods, found a dead tree, picked up a broken limb, and bashed the hell out of that dead tree. I screamed. I swore. I cried until I was exhausted. Then I felt better. Sometimes we need to do stuff like that. If you ever need to go for a walk in the woods, let me know. I’ll let you do what you need to do.”
     Tom hugged me hard.
     “Screw school,” I said. “You don’t have to do anything today. Want to watch a movie?”
     “Yeah.” Tom wiped his tears and smiled.
     Tom and I watched “Orange County.” Not an age-appropriate movie, but I didn’t care.

     “Doctor who saw Tom called me,” JB texted. “Blood work all normal. Celiac test not available until next week. She will call you.”

     “She called and I told her Tom’s symptoms are divorce related,” I texted. “Tom stayed home today and I shared how bad I’ve been feeling, how I’ve dealt with my emotions. He admitted he’s been faking. Seeing what you’ve become, how you’re living, it’s hard on Tom. Tom feels like he has to prop up poor shithead dad in his shithole.”

     “Why don’t we do this. Stop sending me these kinds of texts. I can only be called a shithead so many times. Let’s meet for coffee when I get back and try to have a reasonable conversation. Truth is I looked at a lot of places. I thought it was important that Tom has (sic) a room of his own. I will put some more effort into fixing this place up. If you think I was not thinking of him when I rented this place you are wrong. Maybe I made the wrong choice. After my lease is up I will try to find something nicer. And please, we have to get past the name-calling. We have to have rational conversations about Tom. We can’t when I am being called every name in the book.”

     Every name in the book? I haven’t called him a name other than Shithead this one time. In my head and to other people I’ve called him every name in the book. But to him, no. Maybe he’s hearing voices.

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