My name is Danny Boice and I am the CEO of Trustify. This is the third post of Chapter 2: Doubles as part of our Journey to Trust book series.
A week later, I’m coming home from work, fridge empty again. “What the fuck, Joanne? You and Meg are home all day. Can’t you take care of this shit?”
Meg coos Nolan, making her mental escape. Joanne looks up from a glossy magazine.
I scoop up Nolan. He’s the only thing that smells clean and I rub my face against the fuzzy sleeves of his onesie. Hope in one pink little creature, hurtling through space. He looks in my eyes, his own still bleary. I fall all over again. I will never fucking tired of being a dad.
I try again, because I’m a fucking masochist. “I’ll grab something at the store.” Nothing. Deep breath. One more try.
“You’ll never believe what happened at work…”
The glossy pages turn. I’ve been dismissed, me and Nolan both. Towards the kitchen then, son.
Later, me in the office, working on a report. Frantic scribbling in the margins, mind tilting and spinning on its axis, neck bent at 90 degrees. Neurons are crackling electro-chemicals, leaking out my ears. My synapses must be burning, fire pours out of me, onto the page. All the love I feel, stopped up and diverted from Joanne and the family, streams like Niagara Falls to Nolan, to work. They get my best, always. The lights of the office don’t turn off until three. When they do, sitting in the dark, the inside of my skull glows blue.
Joanne is heading out the next evening and I hold Nolan by the door, trailing pale blue blanket. “Where the fuck? What about Nolan?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Danny. He has you and your mum. He’ll be fine. Mommy needs some alone time.”
She comes home at two and the smell of gin creeps in after her, a pale shadow.
The family picture cracks a little more. Now there’s two mommies for Nolan—the one in the pictures, smiling, and the one who hands him to me. “He stinks. I need a break. You change him.” The one who goes out and comes back when the lights are fading in the street, makes me imagine men in bars, leering. No point in smelling out the cologne. The straightjacket loosens, seems more like a regular jacket.
Bringing home the bacon, making grocery runs, changing diapers. There’s a lifelong nanny and a child development PhD in the house and Meg looks at me when Nolan fusses. “The baby is crying. Can’t you hold him?”
Years pass by without changing shape. Aren’t you supposed to be helping? Pounding headache pulse from hours at the College Board, bunched over reports and SAT ideas and then it’s me and son Nolan and new daughter Jordie. Where is mommy? Where is grannie? Who the fuck knows?
It’s easy to give the fuck up, let the moths eat holes through the straightjacket. A business trip outside the city and another body on the hotel sheets beside me. The jacket comes off. Bodily fluids, warm and with a hug. Bottles of wine propped up on the nightstand, not a drop left. Not love, but it’s the closest thing I’ve got. The movement of it is there.
At 6pm, I’m home, climbing up the steps to the big-white-house. Hello, hello. Kiss the wife on the cheek. Bring home the cash. Fill the fucking fridge. Flip the fucking burgers. And after dark, it’s glasses of wine or naked bodies in hotel rooms. It’s frantic inventing in the cave of my office. Drunk as a fucker and passed out on white sheets.
One night, I walk in through our solid oak door. Nolan looks up at me with wide eyes. He’s three fucking years old. Shouldn’t he be talking? Something? Fuck if I know. Shouldn’t the au pair and the childhood development expert know? Did I mess him up already? I swallow down hangover and pick him up. “Hey, buddy, did you miss me when I was gone?” I’ve showered off the pussy; I’m a squeaky clean dad. Jekyll and Hyde and I do all my hiding away. Only the kindly dad at home. With Nolan and Jordie, my world narrows down and fractions become whole.
Before Jordie came I learned how to perfect the role, how to be Ward Fucking Cleaver. Happy dad, nice shirt. Gaping hole of deep fucked-up-ness strictly in check. Practice, practice, practice. I found my training field when Nolan was three months old and Joanne and I joined a Gymboree class. The room was like an LSD trip, Rorschach blot of orange, red, green, blue, pink. All couples, smiling at each other and crouching over kids. “Hoooo,” adults whooping like teenagers as babies bobbled drunkenly where they were propped up on foam pads and moms and dads blew bubbles or danced. Lollapalooza without the drugs or alcohol. First thought: “Is this how it’s supposed to be?”
“Hi, I’m Jen and this is Eli.” Slow introductions. I looked for cracks in their stories, but hit solid granite. Are they like us? Is theirs just an image too? Jen with her brown hair and open smile looked at Nolan and held out her hand. Nothing in her eyes but chocolate brown. Guileless. Eli matched her, brown hair and big smile.
Falling into friendship was like falling into a clear lake. Babies falling over each other in a puppy pile and us laughing. Laughing. Hmmm.
“So, how are you guys surviving parenthood?” Jen asks with a bright smile.
I lean forward, she listens. From the start, we were trading ideas back and forth like baseball cards. The weeks pass and I want to collect all of them.
...to be continued.