Saturday, October 29, 2005

Maybe next time, kids

Wearing the duh-queen hat, here. Finally figured out...that special pancake recipe I was talking about? Is not my special pancake recipe. Ahem. It was a Joy of Cooking recipe. Found a link to it, here.

So next time all the boys are home? Like Christmas? I'll try again. Sheesh.

Alzheimer's Prevention, special recipe. Now that's what I need.


Friday, October 28, 2005

On the wide, empty streets of the business park

The blue-white flashlight beam bobbles its way through the dark until it reaches my car window. A face appears, sideways because its young owner is bent at the waist.

"Maam, I clocked you going 45 miles per hour on John Street. Is there justification for your speed tonight?"

John Street? That's the street where my office is. What is the speed limit on that tiny stretch of blacktop, anyway? Don't know that I've ever even seen a sign posted. I'm tired, so I don't imediately realize the goofiness of his request. A whole freaking 45 mph at 11:00 at night in a deserted business park: talk about criminal activity.

"I don't know, officer. I'm tired, I guess. I'm just leaving work--been there since 8 this morning--and just want to get home. The kids have off school tomorrow, so I stayed late to finish up some work so I can be home tomorrow."

He blinks.

"I just wasn't thinking. I just finished writing a 600-word article, assigned three other ones out, filed a whole bunch of old papers--you know how old papers pile up--wrote a couple thank you notes, paid the bills, printed out the promo letters, and wrote a large proposal. So I guess it just feels good to be out of my office and headed home."

He blinks again. "Give me your license, please, and I'll be right back."

I barely have time to check my voicemail before he's back, handing me my license and telling me sternly to "watch my speeds, now, would you?" as he sends me on my way, ticketless.

I drive off--slowly. When I reach home, Hub looks surprised at how late I am. "I had a little run-in with the law," I tell him.

"You did not," he says.

"Honest. I was going 45. Can you believe they care if you're going 45 at 11 at night?"

He squishes my face in his hands. "My little outlaw."

I look up at him through the squinching, and think about how unsettling a run-in with the law can be. Even a silly, inconsequential one. I see again the officer's face sideways in my window and think of all the times my kid has had an officer's face in his. Just yesterday he told me how he lost his bike lock key in Cali and had to have two officers cut the lock off his brand new bike. Lucky for him he had the receipt for it in his wallet, but they still weren't convinced. Finally one said to the other, "Write down the serial number of the bike. If it turns out to be stolen, we'll just take him to jail."

Jail. That word must've struck terror through him as he stood there waiting to get his new bike freed. Little did the officers know he has a jail sentence far more severe than bike theft hanging over his head, and the very reason he has this bike and is in this town is to try to do all he can to convince the judge he doesn't need to be in jail, he's turned his life around and can indeed be a productive member of society.

I go to bed oddly unsettled. 45 miles per hour. I should be in handcuffs.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Honest, I'm okay

Further on point five.

You learn, when you have someone in your family with an addiction, not to believe fantastical stories like "I got hit by a car but don't worry I'm okay." You learn to narrow your eyes in suspicion at, "Oh, the front bike tire is just a little bent." You cock your head and probe for details like which way the car was going, where it happened, who saw it. You learn to ask a million questions.

You also learn that addicts can be amazing liars. Truly wow-ifying liars, telling stories replete with amazing detail. "No, the driver was okay too. She was turning right on red after stop, and was looking the other way for traffic and didn't see me. She was so upset though, I mean, really freaked. I was laughing at her, she was so worried."

You learn that the more detail, the more you should suspect. You learn this because you've heard so many stories, stories like: "I was hiking in this canyon I go to sometimes. It's really cool out there, with these narrow paths that wind down the hill, and hardly anyone is around...anyway, I tripped on a piece of barbed wire and rolled down the hill a ways. I'm okay, honest, but the barbed wire must've hit my arm when I fell, because now I have this big infected cut. I think I'll go to the ER." And you find out later it's really an ugly, weeping abcess from the needles.

So, yeah. The stories. And then your kid gets sober. Or at least, you think he's sober, but you don't really know for sure because you're 2,000 miles away. And then what do you do when you hear fantastical stories?

I guess you believe them. What choice do you have?


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Top ten events of the weekend

Quick update from rehab-land:

1. He was arraigned in court. Which is nothing like "I a-wringed his neck" which is what I occasionally want to do.

2. His dad took him for the balance of the time he was home, which made me cry. Hard.

3. He left early Sunday morning. Which made me cry again.

4. He returned my phone call Monday night. Good boy.

5. He was hit by a car on Monday. Which made me stop breathing.

6. He's okay. The bike's okay. The driver of the car is okay. Which made me start breathing again.

7. He may have a job, starting tomorrow. At last.

8. The kid he was supposed to take a trip with landed in detox over the weekend. Which is making Logan rethink going with him. Good boy, again.

9. He kept his counseling appts Monday and showed up in group on time. Which means no relapse from this last visit home.

10. He returned my phone call. Good boy.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

DId I teach you how to make pancakes?

I wake up this morning with my pulse still fast from the afterglow of yesterday's sale. A major sale to a major employer in this state, for a boatload of writing to be done by the end of the year. It's the kind of sale that keeps a small business like mine IN business, and I am happy.

It's 6:45 am, and I snuggle into the flannel sheets in the warm knowledge that I don't have to get up, don't have anywhere I have to be, and geez I made that sale.

I hear running water and I look at my husband in bed next to me. "Is someone up at this hour?" My youngest had a friend over to spend the night, and of course I'm "keeping" Logan for the night since as we know, the ex can't be bothered and Logan hates being there anyway.

"It's just the friend using the bathroom," hub says.

", now I hear the fridge opening." I flip the flannel sheets off and swing out of bed. "I gotta see who it is."

"Well, inquiring minds have to know, you know." He buries his head further in the pillow. Obviously no inquiring there.

I belt my robe around me and pad into the kitchen. "Joe!" It's my oldest peering into the fridge. I go to him with arms open. "I didn't know you were going to be here with"--my eyes trail to the floor--"a million boxes of stuff you brought into the house in the middle of the night."

He hugs me and grins. "It's my new computer."

"Ah. That's right. You're building a new computer. Here. On my kitchen floor. At 6:45 on Saturday morning. Right before I have a bunch of other moms coming to visit for coffee."

"I suppose you want me to move it."

"You'd do that?"

"Only for you, Mom."

It hits me suddenly, a massive wash of joy: all my boys are home.

And it's a Saturday. And I can make pancakes. And there will be someone to eat them. And Logan is sober. And there is an extra boy, a friend spending the night. And I made the sale. And I am happy, so happy.

"Pancakes!" I say. "I'll make pancakes! Would you eat pancakes?"

"Sure," Joe says, like I've just asked if he wants a ride in the space shuttle.

"Who's here?" Hub emerges, fully dressed, hair askew. "Joe! Hey, hi! What are you doing with all this...stuff?"

Small grin. "Building a computer."

"Sweet." Hub pulls a chair up to the table and they do man-talk about hard drives and gigabytes and motherboards while I dig through the cupboard looking for the pancake recipe. Wait. Do I have a special pancake recipe? I think I do, in fact I think I used to take great pride in my pancakes-not-from-a-box.

"Joe? Do you remember if I used to have a special pancake recipe?" What am I, 82?

"I think so." He's naturally diplomatic. "Yeah, I'm sure you did. It was good."

They go back to discussing building stuff and I rummage some more. Gawd, I can't even find my damn cookbooks any more. That's how far I've slid from motherhood, so fast. I find an old, split-into-two cookbook in the back of the pantry and flutter through pages until I find a pancake recipe. Was this it? The special one? I dunno, but it'll have to do.

I grease the griddle, the big one, the family-size one we never use anymore.

I made the sale. My kids are home.

Recently Joe asked me to teach him how to cook meat, and here I am cooking pancakes. I think about how mothers pass things on to daughters, and well, why shouldn't I do the same with sons? "Joe," I say. "I should show you how to make pancakes."

He sounds lightly offended. "I know how to make pancakes. I'm really good at making pancakes."

"Oh, you've been experimenting since you've been away at college?"

"Mom. You taught me how to make pancakes. Remember? Remember how I'm really good at it?"

I do remember. Suddenly, I do. An image of him standing over the skillet, somewhere in the middle-school era, asking if there are enough bubbles on the edges of the batter yet to flip them. That's right; he was good at it.

"Oh. Yeah. Well, but did I teach you how to sprinkle water on the griddle, and if the water dances, the griddle's ready?"

"Yeeees, you did."

"Hmph. I was a good mama."

"Yes you were."

Hub coughs, masking a laugh.

"I even taught you how to scrub toilets, once upon a time. Remember that?"


The other boys begin to stir, the house coming to life with the advent of an at-home Saturday.

I watch the bubbles form on the edges of the batter circles. I taught them about the bubbles. And I made the sale. And my boys are home. All of them.

When the boys have cleared out of the house for various activities and my friends arrive for coffee, the first one in the door says, "Wow, what smells so good?"

I open the door wide. "Pancakes. Special recipe."


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Arugula salad

It's about 8 pm and we're at work, the hub and me. It feels like about 1 am, given how my back aches and how endless the work seems. "Take a break?" hub asks.

So we sit down in the conference room and eat the dinner I made for us and packed into a cooler earlier in the day: grilled swordfish on the garage-sale china plates, with a side of arugula salad.

I warn him the salad may not be very good. It's not. I didn't know this before, but apparently I hate arugula salad.

A little orange candle flickers on the table -- the candle tucked into the flower basket my two employees gave me last week for bosses day. I was clueless: it's bosses day?

We talk as we eat, listless talk because we're both just beat. I've just scraped the salad into a mound destined for the trash when the front door opens. I look up to see my California boy, just in from the airport and grinning because he's surprised me. He loves to surprise people.

I have the secret "It's Logan!" feeling in my chest, and then I say, "You caught us having dinner. Would you like to share some of our--" I look down and gesture to the china plates.

"--leaves?" he offers, looking at the wilted arugula. "I'll pass, but thanks."

I stand up and hug him and immediately scold him for not calling me the past couple weeks. I take his stubbly chin in my hands and force him to look at me, mock-stern: "You need to call your mama, young man, you hear me?" He grins, avoiding my eyes and looking sheepish. I keep mock-scolding until I think I've made my point.

"What?" says his girlfriend in shock, and I'm not sure if it's mock shock or real shock. "You haven't been returning your mother's calls?"

But hey, he's just in the door so after a little more half-serious ribbing I change the subject. "How's the new house?"

We talk a little bit,and it's by turns weird and wonderful and strained and sweet -- the job hunt is dumb and the counselor is useless and he's doing good, honest -- and then they leave.

"Make time for me on Saturday," I tell him. "I need a little time with you before you go back to Cali."

"Okay," he says, eyes connecting with mine.

As the door swings shut behind him, I look at my husband and neither of us speak. Finally he says, "Hey. He's safe and he's sober."

And the candle flickers and the arugula stinks and I must go back to sorting mail. And I am tired, just so tired.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Welcome home

Boy, am I beat. Once a quarter my little company prints and mails tens of thousands of pieces of collateral material in a three-week period. That's now, and since staffing is low and finances tight, guess who gets to stay late at night, sorting and stuffing mail? We're almost finished for this run, but boy am I tired.

In other news, the boy comes home tonight. Now, this I do not understand. He has the first of three court appearances in the South on Friday, and yet his dad chooses to fly him here, to the upper Midwest, and then drive him 8 hours down to court. Why? All that does is open little pockets of relapse-spaces on either side of the event.

Anyway, it's booked now so nothing I can do about it. I'll see him when he gets in tonight, albeit briefly. Long enough to say WHY HAVEN'T YOU RETURNED MY CALLS. Although I suppose that's not the most welcoming greeting in the world. But it's how I feel.

It's definitely how I feel.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yeah, it's a Monday

Yesterday was amazingly great. Still glowing from the book festival events, we had a "brunch" by bonfire at our property, bacon and eggs sizzling on the grill and the delicious smell of woodsmoke running rampant, surrounded by startling fall colors and blue, blue sky. We rode the horse, played some disc golf, did a quick grocery shopping, then a long bike ride, the three of us, and wrapped it up by dinner out and then hauling a load of hay home in the dark for the horse. Just a nice, earthy, parents-and-kid kind of day.

Now, today, it's rainy, we overslept, a nasty bill is looming over my head, work needs me--and the car won't start. So the kiddo had to bike to school in the rain, making him even later (and grouchier) and I have to figure out how to get to work and then back to the final soccer game of the season tonight--and how to get the friggin car fixed.

Ain't life grand?


Friday, October 14, 2005

Tell me a story, please

The highlight of my week (or month) is happening today: I get to go to a book festival and hear my dear friend Jane read from her excellent novel. Talk about a treat.

And in fact being anywhere books are being discussed, analyzed, and promoted will be a real shot in the arm for me after a week of processing thousands of pieces of direct mail. Wait -- shots in the arm hurt, don't they? Okay, so never mind that analogy. You know what I mean.

But what I could really use is a phone call with an update from the boy. He's apparently been swallowed by the vast coastline of California: not a word for a week or more.

So. Get absorbed in Jane's novel and get a long distance phone call: my two wishes for the day.

Monday, October 10, 2005

How does this happen?

You're whizzing, flying, zooming your bikes down an autumn-lined road, the crisp October wind taking your breath away. Or--you squint into the wind--is it the shockingly gorgeous backlight of dappled sun through neon-green leaves that robs you of the ability to breathe? No matter, you don't need to breathe, don't want to breathe, because you're whizzing, you're flying.

And then it's later and you're at supper, at appetizers, actually, because at the only restaurant in town there's an hour and a half wait and you're too hungry to last so you're sitting at the bar eating crab cakes and artichoke dip and talking with perfect strangers about biking up north, and you're happy, so happy.

And then it's the next morning and you're lying in bed in a tangle of limbs, thinking how lucky you are to have each other, how lucky to be in love, just how lucky.

And then he goes to the shower and you are alone in the bed. And there are no whizzing curves or stunning fall colors or laughing strangers or loving husbands~

And you are afraid, suddenly and completely. And you don't know why. It's worse after you don't think about it for a stretch of time: it comes rushing back at you, strong and powerful and all the more immediate because you've left it for a while, this nameless fear.

And he comes out of the shower and he looks at you and he knows, he knows something is wrong, something changed while he was away for those few minutes. But you don't want to ruin the anniversary weekend, so you look into his eyes and you smile and say brightly, "My turn!" And you hop into the shower and you let the water run, hot and stinging and almost painful, and you wonder how your kid's addiction can do this to you. There's nothing even wrong at this moment, and yet you can barely breathe again.

And you finish your shower and get dressed and you say, "Can we go biking again now?" And he says, "Again?" And you close your eyes and remember it, the bright leaves and the rushing wind and the absence of fear, and you say with desperation in your voice, "Yes. Please. Again."


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Opposing weekends

Execution temporarily stayed. He's allowed to stay in sober living until the questionable test returns from the lab, which will take three days or so. They're giving him the benefit of the doubt, as they say.

During which time the hub and I are off for a weekend of fall colors, biking, and thinking about things other than drug tests and court dates and sober living homes. (Do I know how to do that anymore?)

See you all on Monday.


Friday, October 07, 2005

I'm not sure where he slept last night

Did you know that could happen? That you can pee into a cup—at the request of the director of your sober-living home, the one to which you have only just moved—and have it come out positive for pot and cocaine, but then, in a fit of indignation, you could walk back down the block to rehab and pee into a cup there, and have it come out clean?

And that then your rehab counselor will try to convince your sober-living director that you're okay, that the one test was faulty, that you should be allowed to stay there in sober living? And that your fate—where you sleep tonight and for the forseeable future—is completely in the hands of your new house director: his judgement call, his amount of trust in you?

Yeah, I didn't either. Huh.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Yes, Your Honor

So the attorney called today. Logan's court date is at the end of this month. Yikes, already. We thought it wouldn't be until end of the year. We just got him tucked back into Cali, and now he'll have to leave again to fly back across the country for court. Never a dull moment. Never.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I much prefer oblivion, thank you

Yay, we have "comments" again. I'm no code writer, so it took me a while to figure out what to delete and what to add. Oh well.

In other news, I was just interviewed by a magazine writer about writing and publishing in our local area. Talk about nerve-wracking. I much prefer to be on the interviewING side of the equation. Takes a fair amount of trust to say things to an unknown writer and hope he or she won't twist your words, or take them out of context, or worse, use them in the (stupid) way you actually said them.

"Why do corporate customers choose to use you as a writing outsource?"
Cause, well, I dunno. Their marketing departments are overbooked?

"Why did you pick the town you're in to establish your business?"
Uh, um, because I can ride my bike here from home?

"What's the hardest part about your job?"
Being interviewed and not being able to edit the damn article after you write it. Don't forget the em dashes, okay? No spaces on either side. Spell out "okay," and be sure to use serial commas. And don't use the word "plus!" I hate the word "plus" unless we're talking math.

Sigh. Going back to my anal little writing world, now. I'll just leave town when that article gets published.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

One that slipped through

Here's a nice comment that slipped through Haloscan somehow. Thanks, Kami!

OMG I love this blog. It hits home in alot of ways and I love how you express your feelings in such a way, that I get lost while reading it. It's like reading a great book that you don't want to put down. Most of all, I wanted to say thank you for your courage and for sharing. This blog is awesome! -Kami
Kami |   | Email | 10.04.05 - 10:58 am |


But first, this

Just an FYI that I'm going to try dropping Haloscan for comments, and just use word verification to cut down on spam. Will try, anyway, since it makes commenting easier for everyone. Which means all your lovely remarks so far will be erased. I'm sorry!

But first, I pulled this one up from Bookish Wendy from a couple weeks ago. It was just too poignant to allow cyberspace to swallow:

"I'm half hoping my comment will be lost here, half hoping it won't. My brother is an addict and mentally ill. First suicide attempt four months ago. My mom found him. He's 27, will be living off of welfare, will likely try again. The nuances of family and addiction and illness are so hard to explain. You have captured it well. My brother is to a point where he can only help himself - and he's being forced to by circumstance and desire. The desire gets squashed and/or mutilated by the mental illness. I feel this every day and can't write about it publically. I'm so glad that someone else is able to!"

I think she explained it quite well. Thinking of you, Bookish Wendy.


Addendum: Looks like I inadvertantly lost the ability to receive comments at all. Aack. Will fix later, when I have time. Sorry for now!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

How it ended, part 2

We walk in through the garage door and I take off the oversized shoes. My husband stops me in the hall. "Do you know how you want to handle this?"

How do I want to handle this. I don't care. I'm too exhausted to care. Put on the strong mama face and be the adult, or be real and let him see how I feel. A counselor's voice comes back to me from last winter: He needs to know what he's put you through. Okay, I pick that one.

My eyes feel like slits in swollen puffballs. Through the slits I see him sitting on the couch, his computer on his lap. He speaks without looking up. "Hey."

I don't answer, just drag myself over and sit cross-legged on the couch next to him, facing him.

He looks up from his computer screen and his eyes widen. "Mom, it's okay."

I explode in tears again. "No, it's not okay! You lied to us, Logan! Lying is relapse behavior! It is NOT okay!"

"Mom, I didn't lie. I walked up there, like I said I would. I had every intention of watching the game. But I was very uncomfortable, since I don't really know anyone there anymore. I'm two years older than the seniors."

"I know, but—"

"So I called Redlin, and he said Jason was in town. I haven't seen Jason in a long time, and he's clean now. So they came and picked me up. we went into town and saw some friends. They smoked weed, but I didn't have any. I wasn't even tempted. And no one had any heroin around, either. It was okay, Mom. It was good to see my frineds again."

"But why didn't you call me and ask me if you could do that?" I'm wailing, and shaking with sobs now. Once the floodgates open, there's no stopping them.

"I'm sorry. I should have."

"And why didn't you answer the PHONE? We called and called and called, and you never picked UP! That is NOT OKAY! Of course we're going to think you're relapsing!"

"Mom, the phone was set to silent mode. It was on the floor of the car. I didn't feel it vibrate until we got out and went into Jason's house. I'm sorry," he says again. "I'm really, really, sorry. I didn't think you'd take it like this."

"I take it like this EVERY time, Logan. Every time. Do you hear me? EVERY time!"

He pauses, as if he hasn't considered this before. "Come here, Mom." He opens his arms and I grab him, the thickness of him, the unexpected strength of him, careful not to squeeze the shoulder he injured in his last relapse. He holds me as I continue to shake with sobs, there on the couch at midnight. Not a pacifying hold, but a tight, long, strong hold. After a minute I go to release him, but he keeps holding on, as if he's the strong one and me the relapsing one.

We finally pull apart, and he looks into my eyes as I wipe the tears from them. "Look, Mom. Listen. You asked me the other day about the steps. I'm going to show you what I'm working on, okay?"

I nod.

He reaches for the paperback book and notebook he has nearby. "This is the book of 12 steps. Last time I didn't do the steps, okay? This time I am. Let me show you."

His words are measured, as if he has to speak carefully so I follow him. He opens the book and reads me the steps. I know the steps. Believe me. But I don't interrupt. He goes through them, slowly, one at a time as if I've never heard of them. Then he begins to explain them, and his understanding of them.

"I've done the first four with my sponsor," he says. He goes through each of them, and shows me some of his notes in the notebook. He's trying. Thank god, he's trying. As he talks, longer and in more detail than I've heard in ages, I begin to feel some of the tension slowly drain out of me. It's so unusual, hearing him talk like this, from the heart. It feels good. It feels right. It feels healing.

He gets to the step that says: Humbly asked God to remove all our defects of character.

He pauses. "I haven't done this one yet. I'm not sure what it means." He brings the book a little more closely to his face, peers at it. "I think it means..." He scrunches his mouth. "I don't know. It's another God-step."

He moves on to the next step, and I find my husband's eyes. I can't help but smile a little. Another God-step. He smiles back, a tiny wink accompanying it.

I inhale deeply. My son is okay. He survived the night after all.

And so did we.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

How it ended, part 1

He survived it. He came home unscathed, maybe even stronger.

But first, oh. The "but first" part was gawd-awful:

My husband sits at the kitchen table right after the phone call, drumming his fingers. "He's with Redlin. I wish I had Redlin's number. I almost asked him for it today when I saw him at work."

I pause in my frantic pacing. "I want to wring that kid's neck. He knows what's at stake here. He knows all Logan's been through. What kind of 'friend' picks a kid up one day out of rehab and smokes weed in front of him?" I have a moment of sheer hatred for this weasel-like kid who's dogged our paths for years. Christ, now he even has a job at the same place my husband does. What are the odds.

My husband lifts chin out of hands. "If I had Redlin's number, I'd call and tell him if anything happens to Logan tonight, he's out a job."

My pacing stops. "What? You would do that? You could do that?"

"Yeah. I could get him fired. Easy."

"Call him."

Takes him fifteen minutes to track down the number, fifteen minutes in which I think there's maybe a prayer Logan gets through this tonight.

I step into the other room while he's on the phone, but I can still hear him.

"Redlin! Hey, how are things? How's Logan?...Good, he's okay so far?...Good. You'll bring him home soon?...Good....Yeah, sure, see you at work tomorrow...Have a good night...Stay safe...Sure, we'll play a hand of cards tomorrow. You draw first. See you soon!"

He comes out the door and my blood is boiling. I try not to say anything. I try, oh, I try.

"What?" he says. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

My lips are taut as a piece of steel and my nostrils wide as caves. "That. That."

"What?!" His voice is loud.

"That. Was very far away from 'You'll lose your job if anything happens to him.'" I'm panting.

"God, Frankie! I'm doing the best I can!" He's yelling. He never yells. We go into separate rooms.

Somehow the next hour passes. And a half. I'm curled on the couch staring at a mute TV, wondering how to handle the fact that he's now late. "Be home in an hour," my husband had said to him, and he'd promised he would be. Now it's an hour and 15 minutes later.

"Well." Husband stands up. "Time to place a follow-up call."

"He's late." I croak. "You told him to be home in a hour and he's not home."

"Let me call him." He punches numbers. "Logan! Hey, good job answering the phone. About time to head back this way."

"He's late! Tell him he's late!" I have turned into the shrew from hell.

"So you'll start heading home soon?"

"You told him to be here by now! Tell him he's late!"

"Good, so we'll see you in an hour or so? Okay, bye."

An hour or so? He's giving Logan MORE TIME with these kids? More time to screw up? More time for me to wait in agony? I begin to cry again, and instead of comforting me, he's mad at me. Arms crossed, I go into the garage to cry so the youngest doesn't hear. My husband follows, and I turn to him, furious. "WHY DO YOU DO THAT? WHY DON'T YOU SAY WHAT YOU MEAN? WHY DO YOU PRETEND EVERYTHING'S OK WHEN IT ISN'T?!!!"

He turns on his heel. "Fine. You're welcome to call him yourself next time." The garage door slams behind him, and I begin to sob.

After a while of hunched-over sobbing, I'm aware he's behind me again in the dark. I turn to him and spit out, "Why are you acting so mad at me?"

Again he yells. "I'm doing the best I can! What do you want from me?!"

I should preface this by saying we never fight. Never. Ever. We adore each other. Not tonight.

My spine fails me and I double over, stamping my bare feet on the driveway. Suddenly they are moving, my feet, taking me away from this house, these troubles. I stamp up the hill, around the corner, through the street light. It's 11:30 at night in a middle-class neighborhood. Everyone else is asleep. I keep walking, my tears turning to bitter anger. I do not want this job. I do not want these people. I want to live alone. I want to keep walking. I'll be like Forest Gump, and just keep going. My bare feet stamp against the rough road and I head for the concrete gutter. I trace blocks and blocks and blocks of gutter in the dark, knowing it's too cold to be out without a coat, knowing I'm foolish to be barefoot. Who the hell cares?

Eventually I head toward home. I just won't speak to my husband for a week. How's that. If he wants to attack me when I'm beyond myself with worry, fine. Who needs him. Who—

Who is that?

A man's figure steps out of a backyard, striding toward me. I freeze.

"Hey." It's my husband, fleece coat zipped against the chill. He reaches my side and I turn away. He turns with me.

We walk in silence for a minute. "You're in bare feet, Frankie."

"Yeah." It's all I can think to say.

He takes off his shoes. "Put these on."

"No, I'm fine."

"Frankie, the last thing I need is for you to get sick. Put these on. I have socks, I'll be okay."

I slip into his way-too-big-for-me shoes. He puts his arms around me, there in the dark street. I sink into them. He rubs my back. I mutter into his jacket, "It's not fair for you to be mad at me when I'm so worried."

He squeezes tight. "I know. I'm sorry. But it's not fair for you to criticize me when I'm trying to help, either."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Come on, let's go home."

We head back: him silently, sockfooted on the rough pavement, me shuffling the oversized shoes along.

We see a car ahead: Redlin's.

"See," he says. "We got him home. That's all we were trying to do, just get him home safely. We'll deal with the other stuff later."

I nod in the dark, wondering what we'll face when we get home.