- Gather Darkness
Atext comes from vince. All it says is “Paul and Esther,” and I have no idea what it means. Vince’s messages are often cryptic like this. I assume it’s because he wants to pique my interest in hope of receiving a response, but that doesn’t make his coyness any less irritating.
I knew Paul and Esther at UCLA. We were friends, kind of, but lost touch after graduation. It’s been years since I’ve seen them, long enough that they don’t know about Julie, about Eve. Last I heard they’d gotten married. I think Vince still talks to them now and then.
“So?” I text him back.
“They’re having a housewarming June 12. Boys’ night out?”
I think about it for a minute, then text, “Sure,” without consulting Julie first. She doesn’t have to approve everything.
“My nigga,” Vince texts back.
My boss, Big Gay Bob, sticks his head into my office and asks if I saw the editorial about teacher layoffs in this morning’s Times. I didn’t, but I say I did.
“The councilman wants to respond,” Bob says. “Give me something to run by him.”
“Your wish is my command,” I reply in a funny voice, then spin around to my computer like I’m going to get started right away. Instead, I sit there and pick a scab on my knuckle until it bleeds.
Our condo has a small balcony that overlooks Wilshire Boulevard. The street is four lanes wide and noisy all the time. There’s always a bus making a racket or a couple of Korean kids racing tricked-out Nissans. Still, it’s the only place I can be alone. Five floors above the Miracle Mile, facing south, the orange lights of the ghetto like a fire burning in the distance.
Julie and I have an arrangement: as soon as I walk in the door from work, I get a gin and tonic and a little time on the balcony to decompress. Fifteen minutes to myself, that’s all I ask. After that I’m ready to be a good husband, to do the daddy thing. [End Page 396]
Tonight that means letting Eve crawl all over me and tickle me with a big pink feather. She learned this from a cartoon, tickling someone with a feather. I pretend to laugh as she attacks the bottoms of my feet, my nose, my chin. When she sees how much fun I’m having, she gives me the feather and demands that I tickle her so that she can pretend to laugh too.
“Don’t rile her,” Julie says. “Dinner’s ready.”
We’ve started saying grace before we eat because Julie wants Eve to have traditions.
“What are we, fucking Amish?” I said when she first came up with this.
“It’s important,” she said.
Julie and I grew up in regular families, families that ate dinner in front of the TV and talked about going to church on Christmas but somehow never made it. I used to fetch my dad beers from the fridge for quarter tips. The rules are different now. We’re supposed to raise Eve to be one of those kids who wasn’t allowed to drink soda or play with toy guns, which is fine, I guess, if all the other kids are like that now. I want her to fit in. I want her to be happy.
I clean up the kitchen after we eat, load the dishwasher, and Julie gets Eve ready for bed. We tuck her in and kiss her good-night together, then settle on the couch. Julie flips through a magazine while we watch our shows. Other nights she messes around on her iPad or works a crossword puzzle. What this means is that she’s always so distracted that she can’t follow the plot of even the dumbest sitcom.
“Who’s he again?” she asks.
“The blond girl’s uncle,” I say.
My mind wanders too. I find myself thinking about little adventures I had as a kid, songs I used to be able to play on...