We were driving back from an art museum in Detroit.
They were having an exhibition of Diego Rivera’s and Frida Kahlo’s work.
It was a Saturday morning and the museum was full of people.
I kept bumping into people.
I kept losing my daughter and bumping into people.
I felt more anxious with every new room we entered.
I was bumping into more and more people at the exact time Frida’s work was becoming more and more personal and vulnerable and painful.
I stayed too long in the room detailing her miscarriage.
It was painful to look at (the painting) but even more painful to read about (her miscarriage; her only child with Diego; her inability to give him another; her misery at being unable to provide him (and herself) with a child, with a ‘little Dieguito,’ as she referenced the unborn child in letters).
I was silent most of the car ride back,
I was thinking of the children I would never have also.
We were nearing our exit when a Drake song came on the radio.
“Remember when you had to take the BAR exam, I drove in the snow for you,” Drake said
“Isn’t Drake from Canada?” my daughter said. “Shouldn’t driving through snow be no big deal? Why is he trying to make it a big deal?”
I laughed. It was the first time that day.
Drake said, “I started drinking way more than I used to, people form habits like that, girl.”
“God, dating Drake would be like dating a submissive,” my daughter said.
I laughed again. It felt good to laugh two times so close together.
“What if you had to choose between dating Drake and dating Chris Brown?” I said.
“I wouldn’t want to date either of them; neither of them are men, they’re both boys,” my daughter said.
“I know,” I said. “But if you had to. If you had to choose one.”
We were pulling into a gas station. My daughter had that look on her face. The one that says, “Please don’t make me pump the gas.”
I handed her my credit card.
The gas tank was on her side.
“Drake, then,” she said, opening the car door. “But I’d be like, ‘look, this is an open relationship; I’m not attracted to you’ and he’d be like, ‘ok’.”
I smiled, knowing she had picked correctly.
Then I laughed, knowing I would pick Chris Brown. Or I was Chris Brown. I couldn’t decide which.
It felt good not to be thinking about Frida Kahlo anymore.
On Mondays and Tuesdays I volunteered at a therapeutic equestrian center.
For three hours each night I walked beside a horse and held a hand or my arm on the leg of a child or young adult so the child or young adult wouldn’t fall off (someone else walked on the other side).
The children and young adults had a variety of mental and physical disabilities – autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain tumor, cancer and other conditions I did not know the names of.
(We were not told the specific disease or condition of a child or young adult to protect his/her privacy but often the child or young adult or the parent of the child or young adult mentioned it; once a girl I had been walking beside for six weeks said, “that was when I had my brain tumor removed” and that was how I found out about that.)
Mondays my last rider was Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was ten and had braces on his legs and wore thick glasses.
When he wanted to see something - like a ball or a toy horse –
I handed it to him and he held it close to his face and his eyes moved back and forth rapidly as he turned the object just as rapidly in his hands.
It was hard otherwise to tell what he could see because he didn’t turn directly toward an object like the rest of us did to view it.
I didn’t know what was ‘wrong’ with Jeremiah.
Aside from the braces and glasses, I mean.
He rocked back and forth in the saddle when he got bored and didn’t hold his reins unless we reminded him and the instructor seemed to remind us to remind him a lot.
“Use your mother voice,” she would say to me. “Be firm.”
But I had forgotten my mother voice or I didn’t know how to be firm or I didn’t want to be.
“Jeremiah, pick up your reins,” I would say in a voice that wasn’t a whisper but wasn’t firm either.
“Jeremiah!” the instructor would shout from the middle of the arena. “Pick up your reins!”
Jeremiah always picked up his reins when the instructor yelled and then immediately dropped them again after we passed her. Then Jeremiah would ask us questions, like, “What’s your name?” “How do you spell your name?” “Where did the sun go?” (Jeremiah’s lesson was between eight and nine and the sun set during that time.) “Is it nighttime?” “Who is that on the brown horse?” “Can I play with Trevor (the kid on the brown horse)?” “Why can’t I play with Trevor?”
I answered all of these questions when the instructor wasn’t looking and told Jeremiah to sit up and pick up his reins when she was.
I had learned during Jeremiah’s first lesson not to laugh at his questions even if they were funny (which they usually were).
During the first lesson Jeremiah had asked questions like, “What if the black horse ate the brown horse?” and “Can Hercules (the horse Jeremiah rode) fly to the sun and burn up?” and “What if Hercules shriveled and dried up like an old piece of Play-Doh?”
I laughed at the Play-Doh question and then Jeremiah laughed and once Jeremiah started laughing he didn’t stop laughing until the instructor yelled at him to be quiet so I stopped laughing after that too.
Once Hercules farted and no one said anything and then Jeremiah said, “What did Hercules just do?” and still none of us said anything, and finally Jeremiah said, “Did Hercules pass gas?” and the horse leader said, “Yes, Jeremiah, Hercules passed gas,” in a tone that I gathered meant she was glad Jeremiah had reminded us there was a polite way to say fart.
At the end of every lesson the instructor encouraged the rider to thank his/her sidewalkers and leader and to thank his/her horse.
Jeremiah would stand, one hand on Hercules, and one hand in mine, and say, “Thank you, Hercules.” Then he would say, “Can I feed Hercules a carrot?”
The first time Jeremiah asked this, no one seemed to know what to say.
Finally the instructor said what she would end up saying every week when Jeremiah asked, which was, “Did you bring Hercules a carrot?”
And Jeremiah would say, “no.”
And the instructor would say, “if you bring a carrot next week, you can feed it to Hercules.”
Then I had to walk Jeremiah in to his mother who was sitting in the waiting room that overlooked the arena and Jeremiah would say to his mother, “Can I feed Hercules a carrot?”
The first couple of times he asked his mother this question, she looked at me for an answer. I didn’t know what to say. I knew we had carrots in the refrigerator in the volunteer break room but I didn’t think the instructor wanted me to say this. I didn’t think the instructor really wanted Jeremiah to bring a carrot either. But I wasn’t sure.
I answered Jeremiah’s mother the same way the instructor had answered Jeremiah in the arena.
“Did you bring a carrot with you?” I said.
“Jeremiah, did we bring a carrot?” the mother asked Jeremiah.
“No,” Jeremiah said.
“Next week we will have to remember to bring a carrot,” Jeremiah’s mother said.
But the next week would be the same thing. Jeremiah would ask the instructor, I would ask his mother, … there was never a carrot.
I decided one week that the following Monday I would bring a carrot. I would buy a bag of carrots the next time I was at the grocery store and bring the smallest one in my pocket and at the end of Jeremiah’s lesson when he asked if he could feed Hercules a carrot and the instructor asked Jeremiah if he had brought a carrot to feed Hercules I would pull it out and I would be a hero.
But I kept forgetting to buy carrots. So I had to keep asking Jeremiah’s mother if they had brought one. It was a painful and awkward exchange but I couldn’t seem to remember to buy carrots.
I couldn’t seem to remember to buy carrots and I was never going to be a hero.
Jeremiah still kept asking.
My daughter was telling me a story.
“And then Kid Rock came on the radio and I told John we were going to see him later this summer and John said, ‘Aren’t we supposed to hate Kid Rock now or something?’ and I said, ‘John, come on, you’re smarter than that.’”
I smiled when my daughter told me this.
For a few seconds I felt parental pride or pride in myself or pride in some intangible I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Then I remembered all the parents I knew who dressed their toddlers in Ramones t-shirts and Black Flag t-shirts, and I just felt dumb. It seemed like all parents were dumb and taking pride in anything was dumb and I was as dumb as anyone else.
But I still laughed. It was still a funny story. We were still going to see Kid Rock later in the summer.
I felt like something was missing; there were things I didn’t know, holes in my education.
I went and stood in the philosophy section of Barnes & Noble.
It was the closest bookstore to my house.
Also I held no sentimental attachment to small, independently owned bookstores.
(small, independently owned bookstores had fucked me in the past)
Also I wasn’t planning to buy anything anyway.
I pulled five or six books off the shelf and sat with them on the floor.
The floor was carpeted and I was near a large window.
It was a comfortable place to sit; also the chairs were all taken.
I started flipping through the books.
The books were written by men who had been dead a considerable length of time and the men seemed to reference each other a lot in a way that was not dissimilar to The Bible.
The men didn’t seem to reference women except to talk about how they made good nurses or schoolteachers or mothers (which was similar to The Bible).
It was hard to take anything the men said seriously because they seemed to be talking only to each other (and not to me) (which was similar to The Bible).
Also I couldn’t understand why anyone who had already accepted that there was no god, would bother him/herself with a debate over ethics or free will or the interpretation of dreams.
(but maybe I am just lazy)
The whole thing seemed an extension of religion -
An unwillingness to accept the meaninglessness of life and the irrelevancy of morality, which was also manmade.
(but maybe I’m just lazy)
Also, there was another book called Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love and it seemed like they all had and that didn’t seem any great surprise (but then again, maybe we’re all just lazy).
I got up and put the books back on the shelf.
(Now I knew about philosophy and there was still half a day left.)
I put my earbuds in and walked out of the store.
“Drunk in Love” was playing from when I had walked to the store earlier.
I was trying to memorize the Jay Z part.
I had looked up the lyrics online before I left the house.
Beat the box up like Mike; in ’97 I bite
I listened to the song over and over on the walk home.
By the time I got to my house I could say all the words in time with Jay Z.
I liked the way it felt (in my mouth) repeating the words.
It felt like I had accomplished something.
We were walking the dogs and I was telling my daughter how I had received a single rejection from an agent and how I was okay with that. “I don’t know why I don’t seem to have this attachment to my writing in the way most of my friends do,” I said. I told her most of my friends had sent a novel to twenty agents on average and had gone through a period of depression during the process.
“Yeah,” my daughter said. “But if you believe in something, you shouldn’t let one rejection deter you.”
“Maybe I don’t believe in my novel then,” I said.
“I’m just happy my self-esteem doesn’t seem tied to my writing,” I said. (My self-esteem seemed tied to enough already.)
“Besides,” I said. “I’m perfectly content to have it published posthumously, if anyone wants it then.”
We had been walking up a hill and now we were stopped. I turned to look at my daughter. The dogs turned to look also.
“Well, I’m not going to publish it posthumously,” my daughter said.
“Why not?” I said. I thought maybe she meant she wouldn’t want the hassle. She had seen firsthand how much of a hassle publishing could be.
“Because I told you not to write that book in the first place,” she said. “Because I don’t agree with it.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Okay,” I said.
I realized then, in that moment, that with relation to my daughter I was Drake.
I was submissive with my daughter in a way that made me feel comfortable.
I didn’t feel this comfortable with anyone else.
My daughter started walking again; we kept walking up the hill.
We didn’t talk about my writing any more.
There was a pair of adolescent deer walking down someone’s drive.
I felt most comfortable not talking about my writing.
We stood still and the dogs stood still; my daughter and I made noises with our mouths. The adolescent deer stared across the street at us.
The deer stared a while, then turned down the sidewalk and up another drive; my daughter and I and the dogs walked home.
I was practicing my drums.
I had practiced by watching a YouTube video called “first drum lesson” for a week and a half. I could finally play the bass drum and the snare drum and the hi-hat all at the same time. For a week I could only play the bass drum and the hi-hat or the snare drum and the hi-hat or the snare drum and the bass drum but not all three at once.
It was like learning to blow a bubble. I remember practicing while throwing a basketball in a hoop in third grade. All of a sudden I could do it (blow a bubble) and I didn’t know how it’d happened.
Anyway, I was ready to move on.
I went for a drive to 7-Eleven for a Slurpee first.
It was “Two-fer Tuesday” on the classic rock station in my car, which meant two songs by the same artist back to back (which meant a lot of Guns N’Roses and White Stripes and Van Halen and Pink Floyd).
I loved “Two-fer Tuesdays.” (Unless you caught a bad band, then it was a bummer because you had to wait out two songs. Most of the time it was good, though. There were always two from Led Zeppelin, for instance.)
Just before I got home they started playing AC/DC. They played “For Those About to Rock” and then they played “Back in Black.”
That gave me an idea.
I went in the house and turned on the computer.
I searched “Back in Black drums” and several drum cover videos appeared.
I clicked on a couple but it was hard to see the drums the way they had shot the video.
Then I found “Five year old drums ‘Back in Black’.”
Ah, I thought, just my speed.
I watched that five year old play for a week; practiced doing what he did.
His dad was somewhere off camera, it seemed, playing guitar.
After a week and a half I started to get bored of the song or the kid, I couldn’t tell which. (The kid was always looking to his dad for approval.)
I noticed when the video ended another video to the side called “Six year old drums ‘Welcome to the Jungle’.”
I clicked on the video. Right away there was a world of difference between the five year old and the six year old. For one, I couldn’t hear the six year old’s father off camera.
For another, the six year old was wearing sweat-shorts and he wasn’t wearing a shirt and his hair was spiked with some sort of gel and he was smiling wildly at the camera.
You could tell this kid was going to be a real son of a bitch to women someday.
Right away I decided I liked him. I decided I liked this kid a lot.