You set foot on the pavement outside your SUV in front of your son’s school in your punk pink tank top and flat sandals. He’s glued himself to his desk, they say. He just found out about horses and glue. Probably will stop eating gelatin soon. Then comes the vegan phase, one of many recent phases in which you inevitably are placed on the side of the bad guy and merit a silent treatment. Could last a week, maybe two. Kid really likes animals. But he likes beanie-weenies more.
Your favorite band is the Deftones. Most people don’t expect that. Oh, what is it, Beyoncé probably? No, more old school, aren’t you, you love Destiny’s Child, right? No fuck you, nigger, don’t you tell me what music is until you’ve listened to White Pony fifty times on repeat. On vinyl. Your son doesn’t know what to make of this music. He whines and slaps his hands over his ears like a ninety-year-old man whenever you turn it on.
Your hands are reptilian-skinned. No one ever expects this, given the smooth complexion that adorns your rather winning visage, if you do say so yourself. Until you hand them something, or point somewhere. It’s not just your hands, the backs of your hands, all the way from wrist to tip, your nails, typically painted a pearlescent, polychromatic white, so smooth in contrast they’re like speed boats in choppy water. But also your feet, and a couple patches on the interior continents of your knobby knees. Tough and dry, suggesting a klutzy callousness from rubbing up against each other. As if. You couldn’t run even once the daily marathon it would take to come by this type of skin by rite, not if your son’s life depended on it. Born like this. Or anyway, it’s been this way as long as you can remember.
The full-Chinese guy in the Deftones finally died, what, just last year? The bassist. You always want to say Chino but no, that’s the singer, always takes you a minute– Chi Cheng. Finally died. You were twenty when the car accident happened, and you cried then, you bawled for him like he was your personal favorite all along. Looking back you were probably just lacking on sleep, fighting with your mom again, saying she couldn’t babysit this weekend, not this weekend, even though she always would. Just liked to make you suffer for your sins, first.
Desmond’s teacher shakes your hand, then recoils a bit as if you gag-buzzed her, then flushes about as red as you’ve ever seen a white lady flush. She walks you into the classroom. Desmond’s desk is over by the window, where he’s looking, though he certainly hears you come in. He’s more Ghandi than King right now, and it’s a little insufferable. Mom, the horses, he says, and finally turns to you. He’s still got his baby cheeks, even at eight, and they glisten in the windowlight. Not that he’s crying anymore, but he can’t wipe them off.
His teacher– you missed her name– talks to you like a student at first, until she hears your elocution is better than hers. Then she tries dropping words like anticoagulant, to save face, which doesn’t even make any sense, and is probably unnecessary to begin with. What kind of extra-industrial adhesives could they have in this place, anyway? You sit backwards in the desk in front of Desmond and take his hands. The skin of his forearms is reddened and irritated. Perhaps rubber cement?
You have a sudden flashback of passing a blunt back to his father at Lollapalooza, a well-bred Chicago Jew who never worried about trivial things like smoking in public. Stubborn, he always refused to let you roll. The first time you saw the Deftones in concert, which, really, that’s what hooked you. Chi Cheng had the most impressive beard. You wonder if they had to shave that, during the coma years, or if they just allowed it to keep on growing.
Chi Cheng’s own father was some kind of renowned doctor, you remember. A specialist, though not a dermatologist– you’d looked it up, once. Like an oncologist or something, utter useless given the malady that affected his son. This is a trend you’ve noticed in rock music. Rich successful parents, then a generation of artists, most of whom never hit it big, of course, probably leading to another generation that grows up to be doctors and lawyers, and the cycle continues.
You lift up Desmond’s hands. Higher. Higher. He winces but doesn’t cry out. Higher still, until the desk does a little anti-gravity dance and you fear you might snap the slight twigs of his arm bones. A janitor clears his throat in the classroom doorway, and the teacher tells him to fetch some turpentine or paint thinner or something. Which, not knowing what the chemical composition of the mystery adhesive is, doesn’t seem wise to you. You shout after him to bring a screwdriver as well.
Your boy’s eye flash at the word screwdriver. As if you’re about to chisel him free. Oh, D. You bring your palm to his cheek, which he doesn’t shy from, never has. What am I going to tell your father? you say, and he smiles, a little in-joke between you. Because he has no father in his life, which means he has no model to rebel against, no god, no devil. Just you and the rest of the wide-open world.
He rides home in the backseat, still handcuffed to the desktop in his lap. He seems placated, placid. You drive thru McDonalds for some soft serve, which he giggles as he eats, first leaning over the desk top, then pulling the whole surface to his face and disappearing in your rear view into peals of wet laughter.