Dylan Begs for a Posh Spice Doll for Christmas causing Joe to have an Extreme Homophobic Moment.

2 Comments

POSH BLACK copy

When my children were growing up, Thanksgiving morning signified the beginning of the BIG CHRISTMAS PUSH.

Why? Well, because it was this particular morning that our local newspaper would arrive wrapped heavy with all of the holiday catalogs and weighing more than our Thanksgiving turkey.

Lexi Lou and Dylan would run for the ads, wooly zip-up footed pajamas on, Crayola markers in hand, fighting over particular pages as they rushed forward to lay on the living room floor and circle their holiday fantasy toys to their hearts’ content.

I didn’t think much about it… seemed normal to me.

I can’t tell you how many times I ran the SEARS catalog ragged marking page-after-page of needed Barbie doll swag and G.I. Joe’s before strategically placing it on top of my parent’s reading pile by the upstair’s toilet ensuring that it would be considered often and seriously.

But the year SPICE WORLD came out… something happened that changed this mundane yearly routine into a homophobic episode for my husband, Joe.

Dylan, who was in 2nd grade at the time, had grown-up with a houseful of women.

We loved to put him in dresses, paint his toe nails, tie bows in his hair and by the time he was 7, Lexi Lou and I felt, we had created a pretty solid little “metrosexual.”

(note image below)

Minnie Mouse

Joe, had tolerated these acts over the years, and though he had never exhibited homophobic tendencies when out with our numerous gay friends, something seemed to “snap” when it came to his own son.

“You better not make him gay,” he said to me on several occasions.

“I can’t make him GAY, Joe,” I said, full of exasperation and annoyed that my “liberal”  husband sounded so much like some poor man’s version of Rush Limbaugh. “And what’s the matter with you?” I snapped. “You’ve always supported Gay rights? Have you lost your mind?”

He inhaled a long drag off his smoke and blew it in my face. “I support the rights of everyone to be gay except my son” and then he walked away to go pout in the garage.

I knew, deep down, that if Dylan were gay, Joe would come around and would accept it, but I could also see the man that had grown-up with a father who had given him shit about his long hair and tight leather pants and that there was a whole other “meta-story” going on in this continuous conversation.

And so the sins of the father are repeated on the son, I thought to myself, before I went to find Dylan to see if he might let me paint his toe nails for awhile.

It wasn’t more than five minutes later that Joe came to find me.

He stomped through the backdoor, stomped through the kitchen, grabbed my arm by the front door and dragged me into the hallway.

“What now?” I asked.

“Did you see this,” Joe snarled. “Did you see what Dylan circled in the Christmas catalog.”

I had seen a lot of the circles actually. I mean the kids had a good hundred or so toys in their “Must Have for Christmas” rotation.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe.”

He held up his fist to reveal a mostly crumpled Christmas ad with one large circle on it.

“Look!” he said as he slapped it against my chest. “Look at what your son circled.”

Oh Jesus, I thought, he just said “your” son. I always knew it was bad if Joe said “your son” instead of “my son.”

I walked over to the bed and pressed the crumpled pages gently against the spread and flattened them once again and there… in all its glory was a large picture of a POSH SPICE doll… circled for all the world to see.

I looked back at Joe, completely clueless.

“So?” I said.

“You did it,” Joe said. “My son’s gay. My son is totally gay. I hope you’re fucking happy.”

He grabbed the catalog page off the bed, crumpled it into a ball, threw it to the floor and stomped out of the room.

He was halfway down the hall before he shouted, “And if you buy him that fucking doll, I’m not gonna be here on Christmas morning!”

My calm exterior did not betray the intense fire that had just been ignited.

He had thrown down the gauntlet.

He had drawn a line in the sand.

Tell me I can’t buy my son a fucking doll you homophobic bastard… I wanted to scream. I’ll buy him a God damn rainbow shirt that says, EXTREMELY QUEER and a pair of ass-less chaps, fucker!

But instead, I kicked the bedroom door shut behind him and readied myself to go brave the crowds the next morning, buy Dylan his POSH SPICE doll, wrap it and place it under the tree, on Christmas day, as a gift from Santa: who, I wanted to bring to Joe’s attention, looked pretty gay in his leather boots, red fur suit, and his beautiful bearded “bear” appearance.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Joe assumed, due to my uncommon silence, that he had won the battle, and I was pleased that he had underestimated my vengeance for once. It made it all the easier to gloat Christmas morning, as I sat watching him smugly enjoy Dylan open his “gender specific” Legos and G.I. Joe’s and Lexi open her “gender specific” Barbies and My Little Ponies.

I couldn’t wait to rock his “gender specific” world.

We were down to the last two presents.

I handed Lexi her box and Dylan his.

Lexi unwrapped her’s first: it was a new water polo ball.

Joe loved that Lexi was “athletic” so… he didn’t think anything about it but then… something in his eye twitched and he looked towards the box in Dylan’s hands.

I smiled a cruel smile as my son ripped open his gift and squealed with girlish delight at his new prized possession: a POSH SPICE DOLL.

Joe folded.

I actually watched the manhood melt away from his big furry frame.

Defeated.

He tried to smile as Lexi ran out to throw her ball in the pool and Dylan ran to his room to play with his doll.

“Don’t you ever tell me I can’t buy my son a doll again,” I said with steely determination.

Joe eye-balled me but didn’t speak.

He got up quietly from the chair and went out into the backyard to smoke and watch Lex play.

It was about thirty minutes later, as I was cooking breakfast, that I realized Dylan was still in his room. I leaned back from cooking our Christmas scrambled eggs and craned my neck to get a better look.

Bedroom door still closed.

Pretty quiet.

“Joe!” I shouted from the kitchen.

Joe walked in from the back and grabbed a piece of crisp bacon from the plate on the bar.

“Could you go check on Dylan?” I asked. “He’s been in his room this whole time.”

Joe looked concerned, worried that his son wasn’t enjoying his Christmas, as he padded off down the hall to quietly check on Dylan.

I went back to the eggs when I was suddenly startled by the loudest cry of joy I had ever heard on Christmas morning: it did not come from a child. It came from my husband.

I dropped my spoon and stared down the hallway at Joe.

He was doing some weird little dance and I could hear Dylan shouting from the bedroom, “STOP IT DAD! GO AWAY!”

Suddenly, Dylan’s door slammed in Joe’s face and Joe rushed towards me, his face inches from mine, as he whispered, “I win. Do you hear me? I win…” and then grabbed a biscuit and bounced off into the living room.

I turned the heat down on the stove and walked quietly to Dylan’s room to see what the hell Joe was so happy about.

I opened the door slowly and there found my son enjoying his POSH SPICE doll.

Her white undies and high heels were strewn across the rug, her black skin-tight dress was hanging from the nightstand.

He had Posh completely naked and propped up on his lap as they watched SPICE WORLD together.

God damn it, I thought, the little bastard’s straight.

I closed the door and walked back to the kitchen.

I could see Joe in the living room, playing his guitar, shit-eating grin on his face, smug as can be, singing a stupid little song and laughing at me every few moments.

He couldn’t have been more proud of Dylan if he had graduated “high honors” from M.I.T. or had won a Grammy for Artist-of-the-Year.

I stewed in the moment… hating that I had to concede defeat… when suddenly I felt a small arm wrap around my waist.

“I love my doll, Mom,” Dylan said with a big hug. “I love her so much. Thank you for telling Santa to get her for me.”

I reached down, my anger melted by the gentleness of my little man, as I hugged him hard and kissed the top of his head. “I love you,” I whispered noting his camouflage jammies and his red painted toe nails. “I love you just as you are” I said.

Dylan smiled, as he ran over to love on his dad.

I watched as my two furry “bears” played with Dylan’s new doll and bonded over their mutual attraction to the “hotness” of POSH SPICE.

Advertisements

My Decision to Prank Joe Resulting in a Severe Error in Judgement and a Near Drowning Experience

Leave a comment

DD and Joe in love

I was not perfect in my marriage.

(As this story will soon prove)

But often times… Joe is blamed for the complete demise of our relationship and I’d like to go on the record as saying: I was at fault too.

Those of you who knew Joe and I as a couple would probably remember us as: passionate… tempestuous… or the crueler of you… dysfunctional.

We definitely ran the gambit of emotions, from love to hate, and often fought our way through our relationship but, always found our way back to happiness through a mutual love of laughter. And so… Joe would tell jokes and act out vivid stories, after one of his many benders, when he hoped to melt my anger and get back in my good graces and I… would prank him with practical jokes: My only way of “getting even” with him without really… “getting even.”

By the time we had been together for several years Joe had already fallen victim to many a prank:

The time I told him if he put a hair clip on his nose it wouldn’t really hurt, demonstrating on my own nose, but not really clipping it tight, as I watched Joe mimic me, the claw like mechanism biting into his fleshy skin as he screamed in horror, cried out in pain, and tears ran down his distorted face.

Or the time I pretended I was an alien, just after he had finished watching Communion and Fire in the Sky, giggling with glee as I heard him claw in the darkness at the hall door, moaning in horror, as he tried to escape from the creature that he somehow imagined was behind him, horrifying in it’s unknown image, as he remained unable to unlock the door in the dark.

And Joe, though not always a “good sport” would always accept this form of comically cruel punishment as a consequence for his behavior.

He knew what he put me through.

Everyone knew what he put me through.

And so… this is how our story went.

It was mid-winter.

Joe had been on quite a run: fresh off tour… cocky in away that comes from being fawned over on the road… and coming down from two months of excessive partying.

T.S.O.L. had been on Mtv when they hit New York and I had noted in the interview that Joe had chosen not to wear his wedding ring, later telling me that “It looked better for the band if he appeared single.”

But his big-headed attitude… his flippant reply… had stayed firmly stuck in my craw for weeks and I knew… if a situation arose at home where I could make him pay for this mistake that didn’t involve a bat, a knife, or a gun… I would.

I would in spades.

So… I waited.

Waited patiently.

And one day… the moment came.

I was in the house when I noticed Joe standing out in the backyard.

He was having a smoke: Marlboro Gold dangling from his lips… old flannel shirt loose against his tall frame, ripped up jeans that were tattooed with a Sharpie, his black steel-toed Chippewa knee-high engineer boots kicking at the cement, his hair long and ratted… basically… a version of a biker devil hanging out by my pool.

I watched as he put his cigarette in his mouth and clamped it between his teeth, holding it steady to smoke, as he reached for the long-handled pool brush and began cleaning the deep end of the pool.

I knew then it was time… time to make him pay… and so… I opened the sliding glass door slowly… inch-by-inch…. making sure that no noise would betray my motives… as I finally slipped through the small opening of the door and tip-toed towards him.

The sun was my ally that day… my shadow unwilling to betray me… as I crept forward… barefoot… sly…. like a cat focused on prey… everything else fading away as my vision tunneled and my mark grew larger in my sights.

He didn’t have time to react.

He felt my hands slam hard against his back…

He heard my guttural scream of revenge… the power of a woman scorned echoing across the neighborhood… and was already mid-deep in ice cold pool water, on his way down to the bottom of the basin, before I even heard an “Oh fuck…” escape his lips.

I jumped with joy… a small girlish jump into the air as if I had just won a hopscotch contest or was pleased after a first date with a boy I really liked.

I turned away from the water and skipped towards the slider… dancing my way into the living room… big smile on my face… sated in my childish joy and waited for Joe to respond.

Waited…

Waited…

Waited…

It was then that I registered something was wrong.

I turned and looked towards the pool; barely a ripple… no Joe.

I felt my right eyebrow arch and my lip curl.

Ah ha! I thought to myself, I know your game.

And so I stood facing the deep end with my arms firmly crossed upon my chest.

Waiting him out.

Sure he had turned the prank on me.

But several seconds passed by and Joe did not emerge from the pool.

I felt myself grow twitchy.

I could hold my ground but this just didn’t feel right.

I hated giving in… but I would have to concede defeat… so I rushed to the edge of the pool and looked to the bottom.

Joe was there alright.

Pinned down by the drain.

His arms waving, his mouth screaming a silent “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

He looked like one of those inflatable air dancers you see in front of used car lots: arms waving wildly skyward… body bending in a snap happy rhythm from side-to-side. A living marionette screaming for me to pull the strings as giant bubbles of air rocketed up towards me to break quietly on the surface.

It was then I realized that I had miscalculated my prank terribly.

I had not taken the time to scientifically calculate: more mass… given distance… dexterity and drag.

JESUS, my brain shouted at me: He was wearing knee-high steel-toed motorcycle boots you IDIOT!

Boots that could each easily hold a 5-gallon container of pool water.

Boots that could weigh a man down as if he were an over-sized submerged paper-weight on a concrete desk.

My mind flashed to scenes from The Godfather, Goodfellas, and numerous other gangster genre clips before I fell to the ground and grabbed at the pool pole that now leaned against the edge of the deep-end and thrust it forward towards Joe, who had been unable to reach it; too far from his grasp.

He snatched for it and I saw his white knuckles press tightly against the silver metal. I watched as he used it for leverage… pulling his legs up out of his boots and breaking quickly to the surface where he gasped for breath and clawed his way to the edge.

Unable to speak.

Unable to move.

His head resting on his arms, his lips blue, as he drew in great draughts of air and tried to regain his strength.

I didn’t move.

I was terrified.

Though I hadn’t planned to drowned him… I thought in my moment of anger I would enjoy watching Joe be taken to “the edge” but it wasn’t how I imagined it at all… how it always played so “funny” in the movies.

I waited… my face close to his…. waited as I watched for his eyes to connect with mine and forgive me for my own unforgivable act… and soon… his breathing slowed… his head turned towards me and his eyes focused on mine.

“I…” he panted.

“Yes?” I said, now touching his arm with tenderness… waiting for it…

“hate you…” he said as he climbed out of the pool and crawled towards the sliding door.

“Joe,” I stammered. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Hate… you,” he repeated as he stripped naked in front of me, a furry Yeti, angry and wet making his way through the house.

“HATE YOU!” he screamed as he passed the kitchen and stomped through the back hall where he then doubled back to our second slider by the side of the house and pressed his naked ass against the glass… his only means of vindication… before a hot shower… would set things right.

I didn’t follow him… I let him have the last word and the last obscene gesture.

I sat on the porch steps and waited for the shower to stop… Joe to dress… and hoped with all my heart he’d come back out for another smoke.

I was still looking at the pool… the scene of my most recent crime, when I heard the side slider open and then felt Joe sit down beside me and light up a smoke.

“Fucker,” he said as he took in a deep hit and blew the smoke out up into the air before kissing the top of my head.

I said nothing… everything between us had already been said.

We loved each other… despite it all and so I nuzzled in next to him… my head down… overwhelmed by all of his wrongs, overcome by all of mine and promised that I would never prank Joe again.

My Belated Love Letter to Bukowski: Our Chance Encounter at the Racetrack

4 Comments

bukowski-2003-02-g

Bukowski was not a man I loved early in life.

I remember one of my male acquaintances, a member of a well-known local punk band, used to walk around town semi-stoned or drunk with a copy of a Bukowski book pinned tightly in the crook of his arm: the cover always pointed outward… pages systematically dog-eared for effect… a literary badge of sorts pinned to his chest which represented his own relationship with addiction. A prop used to prove that he was deep and not sauced and sloppy like most addicts and that like Bukowski he was literate, poetic, misunderstood and in need of a woman to “get him” but not get too close.

I of course considered this pathetic attempt for attention and literary greatness comical.

Although I did not love Bukowski I knew literary realism at its best and unlike Bukowski, this poor pathetic excuse for a “literary musician” would never be a literary master. He would in fact spend his lifetime writing anthems that would be sung by few… remembered by some, but only die-hard fans in need of their own “metaphorical version” of a Bukowski book pinned to their chests proclaiming to all within ear shot that they were in the scene when those lamentable anthems were written.

Bukowski, therefore represented to me a dark mentor, an abusive father figure, a symbol of the broken men that I dated. Men that could have been great artists in their own right if they hadn’t tried so hard to follow in his footsteps… relish in his painful life, which was difficult enough for him to survive, without passing down the legacy to the next generation.

I spent years angry at him… angry that he stood as a model for the great Los Angeles artist: broken, worn, drunk, sexually inappropriate, distant and unwilling to let anyone of real substance close for fear of having to give of himself or of the pain it might cause him.

I was like a petulant child unwilling to see past my own wounds to examine his.

Selfish, self-centered, alcoholic bastard I whispered to myself each time my husband watched Barfly, drank, used and slapped me with a barrage of verbal abuse. I blamed Bukowski for my lot in life and hoped that his pain was as great as mine… that where ever that mother fucker was… he was suffering.

And then… I stepped aside from my childish view of love; the view of a young woman who has not yet learned that all love holds pain… that there is no fairy tale formula… there is no perfect relationship. I decided as all good readers do that to ban him from my mind was literary sacrilege and that it wasn’t “giving in to him” it was “getting to know my enemy better” and soon… the deeper I delved into his world I found myself seduced by his words… his repetitive whisper that “all lovers betray.” I found solace in the knowledge that we all suffered this “betrayal” together and that we were all hopelessly flawed: even me.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties I considered myself taken… won over by his word. I longed to be the good woman he wrote about, the one that would have willingly stolen what he had left of his soul to find myself immortalized in his words.

But unfortunately, I did not have my moment with him until I was 28 years-old and it was barely a moment… and then… a year later… he was gone.

I was at the Los Alamitos racetrack: a favorite place of mine and a favorite place of his.

I had spent my childhood there with my own father who unlike Bukowski was most of the time a happy drunk, and loved to let me and my brothers make bets on the racetrack ponies. Each time we scored a winning  he turned and grinned at all of his friends as if we were protégés in the making.

These were good memories for me… the only girl in a group of boys and men… always trying to fit in… always trying to be on equal footing… always trying to make my father proud.

But the day I met Bukowski, my father was already years gone from me and the racetrack had become a place I liked to go to feel close to him by letting those memories of my childhood wash over me as I gambled with my friends.

I was with a group of people who were all in infamous bands at the time, all cult-followers of the writer, but the only one who spotted him through the crowd was my friend Chris.

He turned to me and grabbed my arm. “That’s Bukowski!” he said in an excited whisper. As if the man could hear us half a short track away.

 

“Come on,” Chris said as he dragged me across the great hall, past the ticket windows to meet him.

 

I stood back at first, almost as if Chris and I weren’t even together… as I watched Chris rush forward, tap the writer’s shoulder, reach for his hand.

I couldn’t hear what he was saying to him but I could see Bukowski becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the attention. His head was down, a small embarrassed smile on his face, nodding politely as Chris yammered on.

And then, Bukowski looked up, looked at me.

I noted so many things in that brief moment: his weathered skin, pock marks across his nose and cheeks, thick lips, his receding hairline, his large ears, before I stopped at his eyes which were still intensely focused on me.

And then I let myself be seen.

I smiled big and laughed.

I watched as he perked up… there was a coming to… a connection… and I saw the amusement in his eyes as he enjoyed first my shyness and then my exuberance. For once I was glad I was a girl, able to make Bukowski smile, and I ran forward with abandon and hugged him hard.

I don’t know what expression registered on Chris’s face when I did this but I heard later from the group it was a mixture of shock and embarrassment that I had over-stepped my bounds, and then.. complete and utter disappointment that he hadn’t thought to hug him first once he saw how Bukowski responded to me.

He opened his arms and pulled me close to his chest… pinning me in the crook… and any shock he may have felt at my reaching out to him so freely softened and left him quickly as I snuggled in, smelled the scent of him on his coat, my forehead pressed against the rough patch of hair on his chin and I knew that I was a metaphorical badge for him: he was not distant from me… he let me in and embraced the moment.

And then… the sounds of the racetrack returned… the quiet was broken as he patted my shoulder… the way a grandfather does… now uncomfortable with the outburst of my emotion but… wanting to let me know that it was wanted just the same.

My hand lingered with his for a moment and then he took his rolled up newspaper and tapped my fingers as if to say Enough child, before he bowed his head and stepped off with purpose to find a good spot to watch the fifth race.

We left the racetrack shortly after. Chris still yammering on about the encounter. Me… quiet… reflective… unwilling to talk for fear I would break the magic of the moment. But, it seemed to me, that I met him at the perfect time in my life… at the perfect place. It felt like I could feel my own father lingering in that hug… and maybe it’s just that melancholy and nostalgia now sets in as I write this… but it was one of the most tender moments of my life… maybe… because I chose to love him… as is.

 

Saving the Crack Baby

Leave a comment

crackbaby

I was 36 and back in school working on my Master’s degree. It had been a hard week. I was in the middle of a difficult divorce, teaching middle school during the day, taking classes at night, and resentful that Dylan my youngest, was left at home while I had to make a new life for my family due to my X’s departure.

I was in my classroom at school finishing up my final thesis essay, for my FINAL Master’s class, when I realized my printer was not working.  Frustrated… I typed the last few sentences in a rush, slapped my thesis onto a floppy disk (which makes me laugh now to think of it) and raced out of the building in hopes that I would make it to the class on time, which was next door to a teacher resource center, where I would be able to print out copies of my thesis, present it to my class, and argue my educational philosophy and hopefully, receive a stellar grade , an advanced degree, and finally, be back home again with my kids.

I arrived in a frantic state. My teacher, Dr. Isabel was an amazing teacher, a fantastic woman, but quite the stickler regarding class minutes. I rushed to the TRC with just moments to spare, flashed my district I.D. and ran towards an open computer and printer. I put my disk in the disk drive and watched in horror as the computer screen flashed, “DISK ERROR. DISK UNREADABLE”

I felt like I was going to vomit.

Dr. Isabel would never go for a Master’s candidate showing up to the final class, ill prepared.

This was disaster.

I had heard stories of students having to repeat entire classes after this type of incident.

I was terrified to walk into the classroom… but I steeled myself for the moment and marched in: the last one to arrive and the first one scheduled to present.

“You ready?” Dr. Isabel said with barely a glance up from her notepad, where I could only imagine she was planning to write, Deidre Wood: FAIL. Obviously some type of idiot who wandered into my class believing that “Master’s” means, show up to class unprepared with your head up your own ass.

I could barely breathe.

I told her what had happened with my disk.

“So, you didn’t have time to print out your papers for your classmates this week prior to our class time?”she asked.

What could I tell her?

My husband just left me?

I’m a total wreck?

I’m only doing this so that I can make more money and take care of my children?

“No, I didn’t have time,” I mumbled.

“Sit down Deidre,” she said as she scribbled fiercely on her tablet before asking another one of my classmates to begin the presentations.

I don’t remember much from that class other than that I felt full of despair, and that I just couldn’t catch a break. Despite what had happened between myself and my husband, I missed him. I missed my life with him, no matter how flawed, and at that moment… I just prayed that he would come back and we could start again.

Dr. Isabel asked me to give a brief presentation sans notes and print-outs at the end of class and then asked me to stay after.

This is it. I thought. This is where she tells me I’m going to have to repeat the class. My heart was pounding, I was ready to pass out.

“I’m sorry Deidre,” she said. “I understand that you are going through a hard time.”

Her kind words almost sent me over the edge and I fought not to cry in front of my college professor.

“I’ll give you one hour to go home and send this to me through email and then I will decide where we go from there.”

I nodded my head, afraid to even try to speak.

“I’m sorry,” she said again and then turned and walked out of the classroom.

I headed back to my car and tried not to freak out.

I could get home and get this emailed to her within the hour. It was do-able. She had always admired my writing and so, I started to become a bit hopeful that my thesis, and the fact that I had never missed a class, always received straight A’s on her assignments, and never acted like a jack ass, would be enough to carry me through.

In fact, by the time I reached the stop light on Spring and Cherry, I was feeling almost happy again until I turned and looked at the driver in the car sitting next to me: my ex-husband.

He was in his old ’59” Ford. He looked cleaned up in a hot greaser way: fresh Tres Flores on his hair, black short sleeve shirt, tattoos, dark glasses, and blues blasting from his stereo. It was a horrible moment. One of those moments when you know that your X has moved on and you are still the broken idiot trying to remove the pain from your forever wounded heart.

He turned and looked at me and nodded and waved as if we were both just out on separate errands and would plan to meet up at home for a nice dinner later. His cavalier attitude towards me and his obvious lack of remorse, related to our almost twenty years together, infuriated me. I acted “as if” waved back and then waited for him to turn the corner before bursting into tears and sobbing in a way that I haven’t since I was a very small child.

Just then my cell phone rang. It was my good friend, Christy. I pulled over and answered the phone still blubbering. She offered to come meet me but I said I really just needed to be on my own for a bit and process everything.

“What about your paper?” she asked.

What about it, I thought but said, “I’m just going to go to the park for a bit and catch my breath and then I’ll head home and work on it.”

“You sure you don’t want me to meet you?” she asked.

I said I was sure and then hung up the cell and called my mom to let her know that I would be home a bit late.

I went to El Dorado Park and pulled my car up to the duck pond. It was a pretty day, but not a weekend, and so only a small group of people were taking advantage of the lovely weather. I climbed out of the car and sat up on the top of a picnic table, with my feet up on the bench.

I looked out over the pond and watched as a young couple walked the lake with their toddler and a stroller with what appeared to be a baby in it.

They were both reed thin and after all of my years of spending time around recovering drug addicts, I pegged them right away as a Crack couple. They were arguing with each other over everything, twitchy and a bit erratic. He was light-skinned black and she was a tow-headed white and even from my distance, I could see that her face had been picked and scratched a thousand times.

I watched as he held the stroller, shaking it back and forth, in a motion that would suggest he was trying to calm the baby but actually reflected his agitation with his wife. She made a face and rolled her eyes before grabbing their toddler’s hand and walking away from the pond towards the playground in the park.

And that was all it took.

One dirty look.

One harsh word.

One moment and everything changed.

He let go of the stroller and rushed after her to grab her arm and I watched as the stroller rolled into the duck pond, flipped, and the baby disappeared under the surface of the water.

His wife screamed.

He rushed forward and jumped in trying desperately to find the baby in the murky pond.

I felt like I was locked into a moment of time and unable to move.

It was a moment I would never want to repeat.

Then, he pulled the small, soaked, blue bundle from the pond and looked directly at me, locked his eyes directly on me… and screamed, “HELP!”

Suddenly, I  jumped forward, dialing 911 on my cell phone as I ran, rushing around the path of the pond, trying to get to the father and the little lump in his hands that still hadn’t moved in those few seconds.

I watched as he ran towards me from the other side of the pond,  then panicked… stopped for a moment… and sat the baby on a low tree branch limb and began to shake it as if the vigorous amount of energy… his extreme passion for his child… could magically revive him.

“Don’t shake the baby! ” I screamed praying that I would get to the father before he did something totally irrational. “Stop! Stop now!”

He looked at me and I saw that his face was now blank… already gone… already in the “bad place” the place that ever parent fears.

I heard, “911?” answer on my cell and as I reached him, he thrust the baby towards me as I forced him to take my phone, speak to 911, and hopefully distract him from what I was now holding in my hands: a drowned baby.

I registered so much in that moment, my motherly instincts, my animal rage at their carelessness, everything seemed to escalate inside of me.

He was so small, with beautiful black curly hair, his eyes closed… his perfect little lips, a cupid’s bow of a mouth, already turning a light shade of blue. I cradled him in the crook of my arm and rested his tiny head in the palm of my hand before I reached my finger into his mouth and cleared it before starting CPR. I put my mouth over his mouth engulfing his tiny little nose as well and released my warm breath twice into his tiny lungs.

He didn’t respond and so, I pressed my mouth to his once more. I felt fear wash over me… that moment when you know that someone’s life is in your hands and you hope that everything will work out as you planned that all of your competence, that everything you have ever believed you are, lays open in that moment.

I pressed my mouth to him again and prayed that he would come to and suddenly… he was there.

He spit up milk and dirty water and his awakening was both relieving and comical.

His tiny fists balled up tightly, his arms shook in what seemed to be anger, his eyes widened with astonishment and I swear I heard him say, “Holy Shit!!! Did you see what just happened to me? That guy tried to KILL me!”

There was a moment, when it seemed like I would forever know him, that somehow… he would forever be mine… and then his father snatched to grab him from me as I pushed him back, unwilling to give the baby up so soon. I cradled the baby gently to my chest, my ear pressed against his back, listening to his breathing become regular with a small rattle somewhere deep inside of his lungs. I held him so tightly, as if to wrap him in my heart and prayed that somehow my strength would find a way to guard him… or protect him… as he grew older in this world.

I told the father to find me a dry shirt or blanket for him as I gently removed the baby’s wet clothes and then swaddled him in an old worn out sweatshirt and gave him one last long look, before I handed him back to his father.

He held him as his wife and toddler cried next to the empty stroller now sitting on the grass.

The paramedics arrived and rushed towards them and I watched as the father presented the baby to them as if they had won a gift for showing up first to the party.

I didn’t stay… there wasn’t anything for me to say.

I took my cell phone, walked away, happy to be forgotten in the shuffle, and the first person I thought to call and tell this story to was my husband before realizing… that in the horrific excitement of the moment… I had forgotten that he wasn’t my husband anymore.

I looked at my phone, paused, and called anyways.

We talked for a few moments, my earlier anger now completely dissipated by the thought of how fast life can change, that making amends to the father of my children was more important than holding my resentment and destroying everyone with it.

“God put you there,” he said. And I thought, yes… he did.

I went home and emailed Dr. Isabel my paper. It was late, definitely past the extra hour she was kind enough to give me, and I had no idea if it would be accepted but I didn’t care. I told her about running into my husband, I told her about saving the baby, I told her if I hadn’t been distraught over what had happened in class that the baby might have never survived and I accepted my fate.

Three weeks later, when my grades arrived in the mail. I had a solid “A” and a Master’s degree. I was proud of that degree… and I still am… though it will always seem a consolation prize compared to saving a human life.

And now, I often think about where that baby is and if he might one day end up in my classroom as my student, or cross paths with me somewhere again…  and I wonder why God put him in my way… and what God has planned for me further down the road.