She is scrunched up in her bedroom comforter, the little girl with the college banner on the wall. In five more days, she is headed back to the Midwest for sophomore year. Like I care.
Like I care that so much life and laughter are headed out the door. Like I care that her room will sit empty for almost four months. No Skype. No midnight taco runs. No Weezer. Hey, no problem.
I mean, who needs that kind of noise? Her time home this summer has been a thunderstorm of slamming doors and thumpy footsteps across oak floors. She closes the refrigerator, ka-BOOM. She closes the garage door, ka-BOOM. When late to stuff, as she inevitably is, her steps ka-BOOM-ka-BOOM-ka-BOOM across the living room and all the way to the car.
It’s kind of like when Elvis used to ride horses through Graceland, except louder. Yesterday, our house surrendered. And the foundation wiggled a half-inch deeper into the earth.
Oh, sure, she lends a certain Audrey Hepburn charm to the old place. There is that delightful laugh of hers. How annoying. One day, she and a friend decided that eyeglasses would make them look more intellectual, so they went to the discount pharmacy and bought two dorky pairs.
Attention, world: Geeks are all the rage. Lord help hunks like me and you.
Seriously, I don’t know how many friends she has — might be a million. I resent anybody with a million friends, I really do, for I think it shows a certain lowering of standards, a certain “Sure, you seem nice” that I could never abide.
I, for example, have one friend at a time, and it’s usually the dog, the only being on the planet that would ever sleep between my legs.
My only other possible friend is the little guy, who can’t figure out whether I am his dad or his big brother.
Heck, I might even be some sort or repairman, hired to fix the fridge, or slap some new shingles on the roof. He’s noticed that I scratch myself a lot and take two-hour lunches, so he’s getting kind of a blue-collar vibe.
The little guy is a good sidekick, though. He’s spent the summer teaching me 100 secret handshakes and peeing on the bushes at every opportunity. Peeing outdoors is his favorite part of summer. He finds it all kind of liberating.
“I have to pee,” he says with a shrug, then leaves the house like he’s just won a Corvette.
This used to distress his mother, this out-of-doors habit. Shamefully old school, she was of the opinion that human beings should use bathrooms whenever possible. Then she had two sons and realized that urinating outside was one of the great joys of boyhood — especially between the ages of 4 and 74. No one really understands men, especially women.
Speaking of which, we had this discussion the other day at breakfast, two other husbands and I sitting at a fast-food stand along the boulevard as summer whizzed by.
One of the dads proposed: “Could you ever be totally honest with your wife?” at which point one of the other days coughed up a pound of bacon and the other (me) fell off his chair and struck his head on a Planned Parenthood bus bench.
We all took that to mean “no,” though the question is still open. “Could you ever be totally honest with your wife?”
At the park on Sunday, when this same issue came up, yet another dad suggested that, yes, you could, as long as you weren’t required to reveal your every thought, which the opposition (women) would probably find rather displeasing. Indeed, it might cause them to lose their faith in us.
“Omission is sometimes the wisest course,” he said.
Me, I’ve nothing to hide. I’m just trying to make it through another glorious summer, one of the sweetest in years — everybody healthy, everybody home.
Till the college girl leaves, that is. Dork. Off to study her Camus and her Freud, her post-Impressionism and Marx’s theories on transitory serfdoms. See where that gets her.
Hey, there she goes now, ka-BOOM-ka-BOOM-ka-BOOM, carrying the luggage of a dozen Rockettes out of the crazy home in a too-big city, where rush hour never ends.
There’s no entourage to take her to college this year, just hugs at the airport, just tears on the tarmac. Just “so long, kiddo. Call us when you get there.”
Yeah, kiddo, call us when you get there. Like I care. Sigh.