There are little signs in life that I don't know if they're true or not: little butterflies that butterfly by you just when you were thinking some random-ass memory about your dead Mom-Mom: convincing you that your Mom-Mom is now a butterfly who happens to live in the bushes and shits and eats, not say, in a Vietnamese jungle or some Kansas sunflower field, but right outside your house. And I'm not gonna lie to ya: it takes balls to even dally with the notion that your Mom-Mom is a reincarnated bug that happens to show up to flit around on the breeze when you're taking a fat bag of trash out to the garbage can.
I'm the type that likes to play that game, to find myself staring down the barrel of a sign from the great beyond here, a little reminder from a parallel dimension there. It makes me feel like my imagination still has a few miles in it; that I still got Poetry Eyeballs, like a kid or an old dreamer who never leaked out all his magic sap. Don't get me wrong: its all ego. Anytime you spend thinking about how wildly creative you are in this life is basically just you being an asshole. And the punishment for that is probably that some of your creative juice leaks into your piss and you piss it away, little by little. Poets who call themselves poets are basically people running out of ideas.
Still. I have these moments when I get all giddy thinking about my super powers; how I can recognize the subtle secret signs my dead relatives send me; how I can sniff out the very light fragrance of life's essence, it's magical lyricism. I get off on feeling like some common moment has way deeper meaning than it has any right to and that I detect that. Hmph. I know, I know. What a douche bubble.
Now you catch my drift, my dilemma. I am a Sign See-er. A Reader of Moments. The Periscope: that's what they call me in some circles (no circles). It's a hard way to live and its a racket too. But I lie to myself like a motherfucker: and I stare at my daughter's face while she's watching the Yo Gabba Gabba dude blow her mind with his orange magnificence and I think that I see my Pop-Pop staring at me through her profile. Or that I can really just bask in the badassness of my kid just flinging her arms out in spastic joy and recognize that it really is the greatest moment of my life: unfolding right then and fucking there, on the living room carpet of a rented house at five-nineteen in the evening.
It's a balm, I tell ya. A soothing agent. It's warm whiskey: to buy your own bullshit. And the buzz never dies.
So, what happened the other night was tough to take.
I gave Violet her bath, like always. I did the routine, I let her soak her ass in the three inches of lukewarm with her Dora bobber and her colored boats and her plastic dinosaurs while I set out her Penguin pj's and a diaper. I put the binky on the bookcase by the stereo. I hit the stereo to the very first note of the first song (Ladysmith Black Mambazo!) on the record she falls asleep to everynight and paused it right at the exact second it begins. You know you're a legendary bitch when you know a record so inside/out that you understand, completely, the very spaces between the music, between the songs. So, yeah, I did that.
I killed the Winnie The Pooh lamp so the room was only lit by the nightlight on the bookshelf. Everything was ready, man. Ready for that quickness that must shine when you're putting the kid to sleep. One fumble/one pause/one little chunk in the super-slick grease of tucking her in and the whole thing can just explode on you with unforgivable energy. Let her tap her head on the headboard or drop the bink down the side of the mattress where you can't find it for a sec and you might as well have leaned down into her drifting sleepy eyes and touched her nose-to-nose and let out one of those blood-curdling Middle Eastern Street Fighting Yelps you sometimes hear in the dusty background on CNN.
Everything was set. It was Go Time. I went in there and rubbed some soap on her and whispered at her like I read in some parenting book once, so my voice helps to lull her toward La-La Land. I whispered and let warm water roll down her neck and back and she was tiring of her toys and I could feel that I was casting deep spells on her desire to never sleep again for as long as her daddy lives so he can't have his half hour at the end of the massive day to unwind with a Diet Coke and some sitcom. I lifted her out of the tub, dripping, onto her beach towel unfolded in my lap. Together, we said our "see ya tomorrows" to the boats and the T-rexes.
I carried her to her room.
We did our ballet.
To the stereo, hit the Pause, pick up the binky, put it to her lips, spin the half spin of grace, to the bedside, settle her down onto the softness (onto the diaper on top of the pj's ontop of her bed with the blanket folded back so it's easy to flip right up on her).
One of my moments started to come to me. I thought I smelled greatness. The greatness of a man, in the American night, laying his beloved daughter to sleep in the bed he bought her with the money he made working with his hands. Something so pure. Something...poetic.
I zipped up her pj's, the music overtaking us both. The deep rich voices of ancient Africa chanting and singing in such harmony.
My God. I was drunk on our love, on our little poetic scene playing out.
I moved to the door to leave like I do every night, waiting to hear her sweet little voice, like it comes every night.
"Byyyyyyyye," she says through her binky popping at her lips. "Byyyyyyyye," and get this: she raises her little left hand and waves from under her covers: a tiny hand saying goodbye. A tiny voice saying Bye.
Oh the humanity. The sweet bittersweet wonderful terrible world spinning a thousand miles per second under my feet, under our feet. The clouds mixed with moonbeams high above our heads, the thin veneer of night all that lies between this heaving ball of life and forever after.
"Byyyyyyyye," she whimpered.
"Byyyyyyye sweetheart," I whimpered back.
I pulled the door shut, slowly, like The Walton's lights going out.
"Byyyyyyye," I heard her from beyond the door. One last proverbial kiss to her daddy.
The door wouldn't shut.
"Byyyyyyyyye." She was still good-byeing me.
I pulled hard, risking the slam, needing to preserve the stardusted momement. MY moment.
It didn't shut. What the fuck!
I started getting a little antsy.
"Byyyyyyyye." Christ, she knows I'm still here. Still standing at the door, like a fat clueless ass clown.
I didn't answer her. My last bye had been long and lingering and had faded just as I pulled the door to close, like in a killer scene ending in a play. I'd nailed it and I knew it and I didn't want to mess with that.
I shook the door a little. Nothing. It was stuck on something. Goddamnit. Godfuckingdamnit CLOSE YOU FUCKING STUPID DOOR...YOU STUPID IDIOTIC PIECE OF SHIT CHEAPEST ASSHOLE DOOR AT LOWE'S THAT MY ASSHOLE LANDLORD PROBABLY PAID SIX DOLLARS FOR...FUCKING CLOSE!
"Byyyyyyye." An angel becoming confused. Why won't that daddy go now?
I looked up. The door was caught on one of the dumb over the top hanger things I'd put up for her coats.
Shit. I pulled again, with a lot of yank. Nothing.
"Byyyyyyye." Poor baby. Oh, for the Love of Mary why is this happening right now? I just wanna eat some chips and salsa and watch some damn King of Queens or Bizarre Foods.
I pushed the door in a little, thinking that was it. Violet would be sucked back down to Earth from the Drifting Cloud of Impending Dreams and she would be mighty razzled about that and I'd end up having to get some freaking apple juice and all kinds of shit.
A line of light shot in her room, but all I heard was bye. Again. "Byyyyyyyye."
I jimmied with the hanger thing and pulled the door again and this time I heard it click and felt it's certain pop of closure.
The moment, my poetic moment was toast.
I stood there in my splendid shame. Utter chaos had risen up in me, born of nothing. I felt like a dick. I was a dick. You don't just drip drops of poetry down on your eveing whenever the hell you feel like it, fuckface. You're not allowed to do that.
The signs have to be real. Natural. Unexpected. And sly.
She said it again. As I was just standing there. I heard it cut through the music, through the wood of the door.
And without trying or even giving a shit: my kid became the greatest poet alive tonight.