fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)

There is a boy in a blue baseball cap, and he’s standing on a grassy lawn holding a blue frisbee. He’s grinning and some of his teeth are missing--only the ones that can be missing to make him look adorable, though. One would wonder if he walked into the advertising studio to pose for this picture and the photographer made him open his mouth and show him which teeth were loose enough to go.


The product is on the discounted items rack at the grocery store next to a leaning tower of expired, dozen donut boxes and shoe polish. It’s a plastic sealed item with a paper insert depicting the boy. I’ve passed it twice while surveying the discount rack, and it remains a delicious mystery. I could pick it up and turn it over, shaking out all of its secrets, but it is worth more unexamined. The discounted label runs right over the title of the product.


“Child Perf-----n Kit,” it says.


*****


Warnings on using the Child Perfection Kit



  1. Always use a grounded outlet.


  2. Never leave the air duct open as deflation may occur.


  3. Do not attempt to use as a floatation device.


  4. Cease use if feelings of nausea persist for longer than four hours.


  5. Acts of god are not covered under Premium Warranty.


  6. Let contents sit for over a minute once heated.


  7. Fragile: Handle with care.


  8. Contents under pressure.


  9. If smoke or electrical discharge occur, discontinue use.


  10. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!



*****


It was early when the idea was laid down, and I had little interest of talking around it. We would not be having children. To a degree, I just nodded my head every time you said something because I had already embedded in myself the idea that I couldn’t win an argument against you. “The key to a happy relationship is: the man is never right,” I had learned. Also, I was learning that being pro-choice as a man was remarkably easy--your body, your rules.


More importantly, it was your fervor when you examined your history and said some bullshit about the likelihood of you producing twins and having them both be stillbirths simply because of a genetic tendency. It could have happened, but it wasn’t really your justification. Later, we didn’t have the income to support a child, so we couldn’t have one--that made sense, but some adults add the stipulation that they might consider having a child when financial stability is achieved. Later still, it was simply because being “child-free” was an acceptable course of action and needed no further explanation, and this is still true.


We were sitting at a lunch table with four other teachers in Korea when another reality fell out years later. We were all fresh out of difficult classrooms that day, teaching genuinely likeable kids who were obstructed by language barriers, getting ready to jump back in after lunch. One of your students, a fifth grader with special needs, stood on top of a table and screamed “Angry Birds!”-- likely the only English words he knew. It was your first day of teaching--the last, first day of teaching you will likely ever have. You were emotionally done and ready to board a plane back to America.


You always disliked children. Liking them only when they behave doesn’t count.


I literally dreamed of having a daughter, and I denied her possibility because I could imagine the moments of stillness smeared across the walls of our one-day-financially-stable house if she so much as knocked one plate to the floor. I knew she and I would get along, and I knew I would teach her to lie so well that her mother wouldn’t be capable of being mad--that would be my method to avoid outright disagreement with you over what can and cannot be said to a child, the way that you, a student of sociology, started to disagree with your co-workers in Korea over what was wrong or right to say about a child or Koreans in general.


I could not have raised children to live with a mother who could not love or even communicate love for them.


I sublimated my urge to have children by teaching them. I’ve built bonds with students. A girl emailed me four days ago to ask for help managing a home crisis. Kids talk to me about things that are actually troubling them. It happens often because some of my students know that my love for them is unconditional.


We have separated and now I have choices. I don’t necessarily need to procreate, but I know who I would be now if I decided to. I would be a Child Perfection Kit on the discount rack at the grocery store, with a kid standing on a lawn on the cover, holding a frisbee, missing some of his teeth, grinning anyway.


*****


Instructions for being the Child Perfection Kit



  1. Failure is growth.


  2. Bravery is beautiful.


  3. Love is limitless.


fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)

The first sensation is the odor--sweet and metallic simultaneously, a little oily and smoky besides. The second is the question of blood. Is it going out of me? Is my face bloody? Can I see? Did I lick the steering wheel? These questions continue in a barrage about an hour and a half after the fact, becoming less relevant as the day proceeds. Is the gurney easy to move? What will you do if I wet myself?


Smoke rises in front of me while all around me papers lay. Funny, I think, I don't recall having such a messy front seat. Cracked glass is suddenly no surprise but a feature of a scenery coming to life. A plush Batman dangles from one toe from the overhead mirror, otherwise unscathed. There are people I don't know knocking at my window. Are they angry?


"Can you move?" they probably say.


"I need to stretch my legs," I try to say, except I can't breathe. I'm pushing out of the box, and I'm outside, clutching my back. I'm walking circles in the snow. I could run away, I think. This could be a hit and run. Except that's not how it works, and I highly doubt I can run. The morning air is refreshing as breath returns to my lungs. I could lie down in the snow. It would feel good to lie in the snow.


Revelations slide into my vision like Tetris pieces that have no slot to fill. It's a city bus. I've hit it.  The front part of my car is splayed all over the concrete and asphalt, oil leaking all over the ground. I look, but I don't see. Is the bus damaged? It is hard to look away from my car at the bus. My wife will be so angry. She will never forgive me. Did the airbags deploy? Yes, and I still don't know what that feels like.

The bus driver invites me onto the bus to sit for awhile. I start thinking that everyone in the world is nice--this thought continues for at least a day and a half. The two people waiting on the bus are just trying to get to their jobs. One of them was even taking care of me. I apologize profusely for holding them up. I return to my car to retrieve my glasses. I can't open the door and somehow cut my finger trying. How did I get out? When I manage to pry it open, my glasses are fine. Not broken, just tossed aside a bit.

The firemen come. One of them has a long, lined face, with pockets of routine shoved in between the lines. The other one has big round brown eyes and a sympathetic look. I assure them that my mental faculties are fine, but my back hurts, my eye is whapped, and my legs--I gesture pulling up my pants--are scuffed.


"Abrasions," the older firefighter says. "Do you need to go to an emergency room?"


I hesitate, and then I say yes.

*****

I was talking to my speech and debate team, a high school group of about three people, on November 15th, about how performing against other people is one of the surest tools to verify that other people exist. As much as one might expect to grow, that one must also anticipate that other competitors will do the same. Solipsism is the technical term for the sentiment that, in growing, the world will support you as if it was designed for that particular purpose. All entities are structured to give validity to one's own thoughts and progress. The self is the only thing guaranteed to exist. All other beings are little more than automatons.


The opposite of the Copernican Principle is this belief and more. If you are a stationary body around which all other bodies rotate, then you can reasonably assume that nothing will ever interfere with your flow.


On November 17th, 2014, I woke up to head to work. I neglected to take the time to either let my ignition run or manually scrape the frost off of my windshield. It was minimal, and the heater was usually effective at clearing away frost before getting more than a couple of blocks from my house.


The heater did not work quickly enough. At 7:00 AM, the road towards my work curved almost direct towards the East, with the sun glaring down the road at my car. I was instantly blinded. It wasn't more than five seconds before I hit the city bus in the far right lane, stopped after picking up people. I may as well have driven into a brick wall at 35 to 40 miles per hour.


I survived with a fractured vertebrae and a few lesser scrapes and scuffs. I will be wearing a back brace for a month or more. I can move, walk, and drive, which is more than I can say for my mangled vehicle.


We are in orbit. We sometimes pass each other. We often think we know our own cosmology, but the revolutions we make are minutely different every time. We are not immune to meteors. There may come a day when a star, travelling near the speed of light, whooshes faster than our observatories can observe and obliterates us in one seething hot instant. For now, the fear of such a day has passed.


I am not a lonely little star or planet whimsically turning galaxies around my fingertips without a thought or concern, but I have friends and family sharing my orbit or near enough to me to bring me life-giving warmth, making this chunk of a man sometimes worth inhabiting.


One day, when this all comes to an end, it will be a pleasure to be stardust alongside you.

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