Danny Boice here. You’ve reached the last post of Chapter 2: Doubles as part of our Journey to Trust book series. Stay tuned for more stories we publish daily. Check out the first, second, and third part of this chapter if ever you missed them! Enjoy!
“You’ll never believe what happened at work. There’s this project where…” And Jen, holding 3-month old Caroline in her lap, turns around, listens, asks questions, draws out the full thread of the project disaster. A magician with the endless scarf. I can never get enough. Eli nodding beside her, listening too, his brown hair rumpled. Joanne relaxing in the corner, talking to a mom with red hair.
It was the end of the first month of Gymboree. The soap bubbles had been burst and diapers changed. The room smelled of baby powder.
“Let’s take a picture.” Jen motioned the doting parents in front of the blue giraffe against the purple background, setting up a Robert Wiene shot. She crouched down to get the squirming line of babies into the frame of the phone. I looked over. A pale strip of white skin below her white shirt. Fuck, she’s not wearing panties.
Smile for the cameras, smile smile for Gymboree. Every week. Every week. We all met for brunch in a bistro, all chrome. Danny drinks. Casually. Healthily. Normal dad, normal guy. Chrome was shiny and I was bright as a coin. A group of us met up for coffee. I was the TV dad stuffed in jeans. I was-am the dad of sitcoms.
I had-have to fucking live up to those-these perfect dads and moms, with their sleek hair and wide smiles. I had-have to fucking hide the kid from Centreville, creeping up the stairs to avoid the belt. Couldn’t-can’t let them see the hollow inside.
Was-is my smile too stiff? Was-am I making the cut? Everyone else was young, successful, breathing the conservative styles of metro DC with every perfect haircut, every stylish suit and a dark pair of jeans showing a long pedigree of suburban houses and letterman jackets. Did-do I pass? Carrot-eating, belt-dodging Danny of eight, ten wouldn’t believe Gymboree Danny. How did I get this normal? They all wore striped shirts, I noticed this rarefied herd of zebras. And I was-am the scruffy leopard. How long before they notice?
On the way home in the car, Nolan in the back seat and Joanne staring out the window, I loosened my collar. Fucking tight.
“Too weird to live, too rare to die.”
Joanne looked over. “What?”
“Nothing.” I executed another right turn, pulled up at the next red light.
Is it supposed to be this fucking hard to be normal? To smile until my plaster face cracks while inside I am broken and crumpled already? In the bubble of my life, my fractions battle against each other. Is Fraction A good enough? I don’t know. I carry sleeping Nolan and cooing Jordie up the steps and the vast polish of our house opens to us. I tuck his $70 blanket around him and my arms tighter around her, keep them safe. I fucking hope it’s enough. But I have my doubts.