Thursday, March 07, 2013

SPE: "It's All Too Much"

{For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Debbie gave me this prompt: Use these sensory words in a piece: cool, yellow, fresh, sweet, and crackle. I gave Anna Ellis this prompt: "It's funny how everything was roses while we held onto the guns." -Guns N Roses}

The condensation beaded up on the side of the cool glass, the drops racing each other down the side to the growing pool of moisture on the counter. Diet Coke, plenty of ice, a slice of fresh yellow lemon, and a splash of whiskey. Or two. I could see Sophie's head from where I was standing, her fluffy red hair exploding from the neat ponytail I placed it in this morning. I didn't like her watching television, but the color and the sound kept her attention for a few minutes.

I needed a few minutes. A few minutes without the yammering, the howling hole of need and want that was torn from me a year and a half ago and now sits, enraptured, purple and blue light playing over her perfect, even face. She looks just like my sister, my sister with a hint of my husband's strong chin and deep blue eyes. She's a head turner, far prettier than me, the kind of little girl that strangers stop to look at, with the unruly crimson hair that folklore promised would pay off in a ferocious temper.

I took a sip of the drink. Sophie's dinner was cooking, while I mixed cookie dough, piling the mush on top of itself in the large bowl, stirring and stirring to give myself something to do. I thought about spooning a load into my mouth, but I knew how that would end, a rush of delirious taste, joy and intense sweet flavor followed by guilt and a crushing depression, weeping in the bathroom while John sleeps blissfully in our bed. I shifted my weight uncomfortably, both hips hurting from a long day walking around in heels. No position felt comfortable. I longed to sit, but tomorrow was Friday, and the big cookie sale was Saturday, so I had to be ready.

I thought about Evie, perfect blond Eveline with her runway model looks, thousand dollar purses, and abs that seemed to spring back seconds after her kids are born. The way she asked me to make cookies, the implied answer already embedded in the question like a bomb. "You are making the chocolate chip, right? 8 dozen should do it, I think. Oh, thanks so much, hon!," she said, already clicking off onto another call before I could really form a thought.

"I'm too tired," I thought to the silent air after her call. "I'm too worn out from holding up work, and marriage, and this hurricane of mess and love and joy and anger," I wanted to say now, staring at my daughter, her thoughts miles away in a world where blue dogs yelped and salt and pepper shakers talked with a French accent and answers were found in notebooks. The oven pinged and I moved to remove her dinner, chicken nuggets and macaroni and carrots she wouldn't touch.

I had to arrange it the way she wanted, each third of her Elmo plate holding a single dish, nothing touching, her drink not too cold, her food not too hot. My father laughed and called her "The Tyrant", and we all laughed because that's what you do when a grandparent said anything because grandparents are joyful and fun, right? The remark cut into me, though, especially when I started turning it over, late that night, sitting by myself at the dining room table, drinking red wine, realizing that he was exactly right, children were tyrannical. Their demands were absolute, they could not be negotiated with, and everyone suffered if you defied them.

I picked up my drink, taking a long swallow, setting it down on a wrapper from a bag of chocolate chips that gave off a crackle. I had to change the oven temperature for the cookies, then begin setting trays full of cookies in there, tray after tray after tray, denying her repeated requests to try one, rushing her through bathroom and brushing teeth and changing into pajamas and brushing the hair and bed, battling at each stage until I am nearly senseless with rage and guilt.

And then John comes in, tired from work but full of affection, sweetly tucking Sophie in, then turning to me, expecting passion and love and sweat and the girl he married, looking for a champagne flute and getting an empty, cracked cup. It's all too much, I thought, hearing George Harrison sing it in my head. "It's all too much/for me to take..."

"Dinnertime, Sophie," I said.

"OK," she said with practiced annoyance at my interruption. .

OK? I thought, feeling my emotions redline like I was driving in first gear. I felt the hot bubble of anger in my throat. Do you have any idea what I have given up for you? What I do for you? What you made me? And I'm interrupting your precious program? The words formed, enraged sentences and obscenities forming in my head. I took a step towards her.

Just as suddenly as it started, it broke like a wave across my forehead. Of course she doesn't know. She's one. How would she know? She's all sensation and want, and she's still a little surprised the world is still there when she opens her eyes in the morning. I undid the bottom button on my blouse, which was uncomfortably tight across my middle. I looked down at her, watching intently as the clues are revealed, knitted together to answer the question posed at the beginning.

I let a breath out, then took another deep draw on my drink. O Sophie. Love of my life, despoiler of dreams. Tyrant, dreamer, imagined foe, red headed wonder. She turned to look up at me when the program broke for commercial. She didn't ask for any of this. I was deeply unworthy of such a perfect, pure love.

I heard the front door open, and the sounds of John coming through the front door. "Daddy!," she yelled, bolting from her seat and dashing for the door.

Yes, I thought, hearing the joyful cries, her high screech and his low rumble. Daddy.