We were going to have a cookout. Terra’s best friend, Hi, had come town with her family and Terra wanted to see them... entertain them even. For me, it was an excuse to drink hard and stay out of my head.
We cleaned the house, got Mason down for a nap, and prepared food. I couldn't even tell you what. I chopped onions and drank cans of Natural Light. Terra and I laughed and teased each around the island in our kitchen, chopping broccoli, tomatoes, scallions… I was feeling good. I had actually SLEPT the night before and it was having a wonderful affect on my mood. "I'm going to make it," I thought to myself. I breathed in and the air felt clean. I was able to think of Roxy and let it hurt without shaking my head "NO NO NO NO NO." I opened another Natural Light. Then another. Then another.
Guests began to arrive. Adults and children alike, were scattering throughout our back yard. Whiskey and coke, cheap beer, wine and food all around.
IThe outdoors were blurry with trees and laughter. I spun around one corner of the yard with 5 kids and a giant blue rubber ball. I kicked it repeatedly up into the outstretched branches of the maple trees, and one at a time, the children would chase it down with wild flailing arms and bring it back to me. I was a child myself. I have wandered into the creation of a new game. Something accidental and perfect.
And oh yes! I promised them we would make s’mores!
I had never been drunk in front of my son before Roxy died, and now it was every Saturday.
Natural Light in hand, I gathered good marshmallow sticks from the hanging branches of trees.
“Can we help?” Ella asked.
“Yes yes! That would be great!”
“I want to help too!” Em screamed.
“Me too! Me too!” from all around.
“Yes yes!” I yelled, stumbling.
I gathered up the sticks. Em approached with a heap of brush and hands it to me. “Thank you!” I giggled. I gathered more sticks. I heard Ella and Shell giggling. I looked up to see Ella with gobs of brush sticking out of her shirt, shorts and hair.
“You are totally camo!” I bellowed! Hee hee!!! Ha Ha!!!
Then I heard a mother scream. It is U.
“ELLA!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT’S POISON IVY!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Oh. No.” Ella muttered, sadly.
“Oh shit,” I heard myself say. “That’s poison ivy?” I glanced around with bleary eyes. All the children were holding thatches of poison ivy.
“Yes.” U was trying to stay calm. “Yes, this is poison ivy, see when the leaf looks like it has a thumb…” she explained.
“Yeah, this is not good… Ella, go into the bathroom and wash off from head to toe.”
The party outside had gone silent. I was still holding onto my Natural Light. Guilt hammered me hard, and everything started slowing down. I realized at the exact same time everyone else did that I was completely shitfaced. I sat down. Z, Hi’s 5-year-old daughter, wanted to save me and dragged me back into the fray. Suddenly I found myself again with the giant blue rubber ball, surrounded by young, chocolate covered faces. I kicked and I kicked and I kicked. I was sweating, snarling, giggling and jumping. I stopped occasionally and shouted “nice job!” or “now wait until it’s your turn” but mostly I was just kicking with a beer in my hand. I was disappearing.
As darkness began to descend, scenes from the day were grouping together as I watched. Bocce ball over there, heart to heart over there and Hi and her family had quietly disappeared without much of a goodbye. Aside from signed names on a Christmas card that year, Terra never really heard from her again. So much for entertaining them.
I made popcorn for children watching a movie and kicked over somebody's juice. They had tired, tired eyes.
“About 20 more minutes…” I slurred in Mason’s direction.
An hour later I heard myself saying the same thing again. Outside, the scene was getting crazy. Only the wild ones were left. The music had gotten louder, and I gave a standing sermon regarding The Kinks and how they could eat The Beatles' lunch, and challenged anyone to state differently. Jo and Mike were slapping each other. A group was smoking dope. Terra was drunkenly threatening to fight our friend Mac but instead lurched and sprayed bug repellent into Jo's open mouth.
"I have GOT to put Mason to bed before things get too out of hand," I heard myself say. I wobbled, watching him brush his teeth, and tried to brace myself against the back of the toilet.
“Can we read a book?” he asked.
“Oh, it might be too late,” I mumbled, leading him into the bedroom.
“Oh…” he was about to crack.
“Alright,” I relented. “A short one.”
I stuttered through an awful, uninspired rendition of “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt.” His eyes were heavy. "Shouldn’t take him long to fall asleep" I thought. "Please, please, please..." I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. I had to pee terribly. "Please, please, please.." I stared at him for 45 minutes, both of us in total silence. His eyes were heavy, but his body squirmed. Finally, he stopped moving his knee. Was he asleep? I began to crawl out of the bed.
Dammit. I lay back down. The shrieks outside were gleeful and irreverent and I wanted to be out there. I wanted to vomit and I desperately wanted to take a leak. Slowly, slowly, slowly, his eyes closed again. I again started to crawl out of the bed. Tip toe, tip toe, tip toe…
He opened his eyes and sat straight up.
“Honey, I have to pee really badly. I’ll be right back.”
He made a face.
“Really, I’ll be right back…”
By the time I returned, he was sleeping hard. I said his name softly to be sure. Nothing. "Oh thank you thank you thank you..."
Outside, I took shots of whiskey and smoke. I turned up The Kinks and admonished Br for touching the stereo. I talked loudly about Mike’s high school haircut and my wife had started winging wet marshmallows at Josh. So I started to throw marshmallows. A full on scrum ensued, with people running all over the yard, everywhere. Animals, animals, animals. We had clawed our way back to madness.
Then, bang, my head hit the iron table. I was going to sleep tonight.