It all started when I got up early so that I could be half-way presentable when Joey walked through the door. I brushed my hair and my teeth, walked into the living room and straightened the pillows on the couch. I started the coffee maker--I can hardly move without a cup of joe in the morning, let alone think--and glanced at the clock.
Anytime now, I thought. I wiped the counters and started unloading the dishwasher. The coffee pot made its joyful gurgling sounds that means its ready so I walked over and and poured the brown liquid into a ceramic mug, one out of a set of four that we bought at Savers for a dollar.
I swirled the honey as I squeezed it out of its plastic container into the coffee, walked slowly over to the fridge and grabbed the milk, letting the door slam shut as I walked back to my mug. As I stirred the milk into the coffee, its color changing from dark brown to a yummy latte color, I stared at the clock.
Hmmm...I thought. He's late. Stay calm. Don't freak out. The first thought the crosses my mind is that he is in a fatal accident on the highway and instead of a day at Tahoe like we have planned I will be told to go to some horrible building and asked to identify his body under a white sheet. The second thought--and the one that usually stays around, making me a little crabby for at least the next two hours I am with him--is that he is dilly-dallying.
Okkkkk...so what is he doing? I tell myself, Don't freak out. Don't freak out. Stop freaking out. But I can feel that freaking out feeling rising, so I pick up the phone and dial his cell. He doesn't pick up, so I leave him a message, trying to make my voice as normal as possible, but at the end I fudge it up and say, so will you call me? with an edge in my voice like a small, sharp pocket knife.
I hang up. Fifteen seconds later the phone rings. I can tell he picked up on the edge in my voice because his voice is soft and cautious, trying to figure out just how much more of an edge I am hiding.
Turns out he went out to coffee with his buddy. Ohhhh. Ok. Thats not such a big deal. He needs friends, right? So I tell myself to suck it up and let it go.
Which would have been fine if the rest of the day would have been even an OK day but it wasn't.
First, Joey comes home and tells me he is not going to sleep before we go to Tahoe.
You are not going to sleep? I say to him and he says No and shrugs his shoulders. The man just came off a twelve hour shift working all night for the fourth night in a row durring the most crazy weekend in Reno, Hot August Nights. I know he thinks he feels fine now, after he just drank a cup of coffee, but in four hours when we are supposed to be playing on the beach, he is going to be zombie man or worse, super grumpy zombie man.
But then I shrug my shoulders. Whatever.
His caffiene dilusion wore off sooner than I had anticipated; twenty minutes later he's movements slow down, his eyes glaze over. Do you want to sleep? No, he says to me, I can sleep in the car on the way. In the car on the way? Of course. I'll just drive the whole way not talking to anybody.
I pack the rest of the car, feeling like I am doing the whole thing by myself, which I know isn't true and which further proves what a piece of crap wife I was being that morning and we head out of town.
Partly out of thirst but mostly out of self pity I decide to stop and get an iced Chai. As I am pulling off the freeway, Joey half wakes up from his snooze.
"You could have stayed on the freeway."
"I know, I am getting a Starbucks." I like the control I'm feeling. I'm driving. I'm getting a Starbucks. And nobody was awake to talk me out of it. I feel a sort of anger/bitter/contol giddiness that makes me happy in a horrible way.
Joey closes his eyes again. At the pick up window he opens them again.
"How are you going to pay? Your purse is in the trunk."
"I know." I point at the twenty dollar bill laying in the console that he grabbed before we left the house for parking at Sand Harbor. "See?" I said. "I'm not as big of a spaz as you think I am." I smile, but it isn't an entirely friendly smile.
He closes his eyes again.
I decide to not get back on the freeway since Virginia Street turns into 395 South anyway, and head off. My chai makes me a little happier, and I start humming hymns. I decide to try and turn the morning around. I hope Joey is awake enough to hear my humming so he knows that I am trying to be happy.
I decide things are definetly going better. My two boys are sleeping, I have an ice chai, and am humming. Then for some weird reason Joey opens his eyes again.
"Where are you going?"
Oh shoot. Shoot, shoot, shoot.
I turn unexpectantly and violently into a side street. I took the wrong highway. I forgot I had to take Mt Rose highway, not 395 South. Stupid!
I stop humming and get back on the highway heading the oppisit direction. Joey doesn't say a word, which is good, because if he would have I would have cried. I could feel the tears accumulating as it was.
So we head up the mountain. At one point I tell Joey I guess I am a spaz and he just reaches over and pats my leg.
The ride was very long and very windy and I have decided I will never drive it again.
We pull into the parking lot behind four cars waiting to pay. I reach down to get the cash to pay the lady EIGHT dollars to park and the whole wad of bills is soaked. What the...?
"Joey, wake up. Help me. These are soaking. " We shake the bills out, which have been marinating in Ethan's left over apple juice that spilled out of his sippy. Thankfully, the moisture seems to leave them quickly but they still have a stickiness to them. We barely get two fives dry before we pull up to the booth. I hand the lady the sticky bills very nonchalontly and quickly grab the two, ultra crisp and dry bills she hands me in return and then speed off like we just got away with something illegal.
We drive around and find a spot in the shade to wait for Ethan to wake up. I read Joey's WORLD magaizine, Joey dozes and Ethan sleeps.
Forty minutes later I hear Ethan move in the back seat. I turn to see if he is awake and his sleepy eyes and puffy cheeks make me smile for the first time all day. Hi Bubba. How ya do'en?
He gives me a sleepy smile.
"Com'on Joe. Let's go." I slap Joey's leg to wake him up, a new motivation in my voice. Things are looking up again. We can start this whole, crappy day over. We are at the beach. New beginnings. These are all the thoughts going through my head as I open the back door and undo Ethan's car seat. The thoughts stop though as I lift Ethan out and realize he is soaking. In pee.
Oh my gosh...But by this time, I just act as cool as a cucumber. No big deal. I hardly say anything to Joey, who is staring wide eyed at the pee-soaked car-seat. We'll hose it off, I tell him.
We walk down the beach and don't see my parents anywhere, even though we are the ones who are and hour and a half late. We set up in one place and then decide another would be better so we move all our crap and settle, only I can't settle because we can't find my parents. So I tell Joey I am going to go find them. I set off down the beach, a little irritated at everyone who seems to be having such a good time, especially because that sand up there is so darn hard to walk in. And I wasn't finding my parents.
When I get back in view of Ethan and Joey I see my dad kneeling by them in the sand. Turns out it took them a little longer to leave than they had anticipated. And, my dad tells me, no charcol bar-b-ques allowed. Some fire danger or something. So there goes our steak dinner.
We move again because Grammie and Papa need shade.
The day passes quickly, Joey sleeping the whole time. At one point my mom mentions a missing bucket from a pack of beach toys she bought for Ethan, and I about explode. Who cares about a bucket? Well, she did, and if anyone should, it should be her because she was the one making pools and sand creatures with Ethan all day. I tell her I will look for it.
Dinner time comes and we decide to check out the new snack stand. My mom and I walk over together, suddenly mingling with the Shakespeare crowd, not the beach crowd. I feel naked as I walk through lines of people in my two piece, my bottom jiggling and moving even when I stop. The snack stand turns out to be a restaurant with air conditioning blarring in from the doors like an icy wind. We can order take out. My mom takes her time ordering, while I just want to get the heck out of there and out of the line of sight of four fully clothed college age boys who are working behind the counter.
The food takes forever. I take cover between to candy racks, sure that the boys are suspecting that I am shoplifting because I am awkwardly staying in one place for so long, but where would I put the candy?
The food is finally ready (15 dollars for one hamburger, mind you) and I hop in front of my mom on the way out so the boys can't watch my butt as we leave.
Somehow, I am in a better mood as we walk back to the beach.
When we get back to our clan, Joey is in a chair and smiling. We pass the food, Joey cracks a joke but can't get the punch line exactly right; Papa tells a blond joke that my dad brings up five minutes later, laughing, "You know when a joke just hits you?" He smiles and shakes his head as he bites into his burger.
On the car ride home Joey drives. We bicker about the radio--"Just pick a station and leave it, Danae"--so I grab a CD.
Journey's cool, cigarette voice fills the car and I turn it up, rocking my head from side to side, bouncing a little in my chair. Joey looks annoyed and keeps turning the music down. Ethan starts to fuss so I grap his blanky and wiggle it in the air to make him laugh. I am really getting into the music now and I take his yellow blanky and put it on my head, smiling back at him like a buzzed Little Bow Peep. He laughs harder. I put the blanky all the way over my head and bounce my head back and forth, Ethan's giggles filling the car with a new joy. I'm holding my sunglasses in my lap and then like a light switch think how funny it would be if I put them on my head over the blanky...Ethan errupts with precious, million-dollar giggles and I laugh out loud under my mask. I keep bouncing my head, and then I hear it: Joey's giggle. It's small at first like he was trying to keep it inside. Then another. My heart feels like it starts beating for the first time all day. I take my mask off and try to smooth down my static hair and I cannot stop smiling. I catch Joey's eye and we giggle together and do the blanky-man routine a couple more times. By now Joey lets himself laugh freely. Ethan is peeing his pants I am sure.
And this is how we go home: laughing, driving toward a pink sky filled with heaven's clouds, redeemed.