Sunday, July 10, 2005
Purposeful Mental Breakdown
Taking a break from the London bombings, the Iraq struggle, and natural impending disaster, turning away from death by sex offender, random sniper, serial killer, and terrorism, the Californian housewife keeps quiet company. She doesn’t belong to any overtly oppressed group nor does she have any agenda or cause or drama with which to catch media attention. Her intelligence, her education, is unseen and she’s associated with the petty, with soap opera, with paranoid concerns about unsafe toys.
I dusted the curio cabinet today and worked chewing gum out from the carpet, I Swiffered the laminate floor and wiped the cabinets, all while the news showed blood-drenched persons, shell-shocked, repeating their stories. While the chicken sautéed and the vegetables heated in the microwave, the White House told us to be vigilant and to watch for unmanned baggage, packages, and whatnot. M scratched her hand as she ran through the kitchen, falling and crying and demanding a bandage, a Barbie one, it had to be a Barbie one. As I tended her hand, she then cried because she lost a puffy emblem off her blue sock and asked if I could tape it to her sock so she could be whole once more?
“I need it put on, Mama! I need it now!”
The chicken needed flipping once I heard some more about the killer of the Idaho family with the sole survivor. A asked me and asked me some more for cucumbers and tomatoes and J wanted his cd’s back, the ones I took away because he’d bought them without permission, bought the “parental advisory” cd’s even though we’d said, no, no, no, the bad language is too negative for your learning mind, but as I said, “negative” again for emphasis the news in the background reported the number of deaths first of Iraqi citizens, then of Londoners moving onto those in Haiti and Cuba.
“You can’t listen to music that says, ‘fuck the world.’”
“Because you get drawn into the ugliness and don’t pay attention to what’s great about the music such as the drumming and the chords.”
“I want my cd’s back.”
The dinner was ready and as I searched the side drawer for a spatula, I saw the bills spread across the counter, stamps aside ready to be pasted, checkbook ready to be used, asking us to pay for electricity, gas, gasoline, the mortgage, line of credit, credit cards, cable, internet access, the phone, cell phones, dentists, doctors and the pre-school. Checking to see what was needed to finish setting the table, I noticed under the chairs a mess M left where she’d been peeling and eating hard-boiled eggs earlier. I turned to the sink and noticed a line of mold where the caulk had deteriorated and turning further still I saw at the foot of the refrigerator a puddle of blue yogurt that A spilled and didn’t bother to clean up. Barely, I eyed the dust under the fridge and became immediately tired at the prospect of pulling this thing out and cleaning the filth behind. I couldn't stand the dirt (endless, nightmarish, constant) and started sweeping under the chairs and wiping the yogurt even though dinner was now beginning to overcook.
I had to stop when J asked again for the contraband cd’s and when I said, “no,” (saying it while I peeled the chicken off the pan, having to scrape the burnt bottom) he made a big show by yelling wordlessly and banging on his drum set as hard as he could to let us know he was very, very disappointed.
At last I heard progress with North Korea and Dennis Rodman just in time for the children to scramble and slam themselves into their chairs at the dinner table, D putting final touches on the table, wondering whether the knife went on the left or right of the plate. I’m not sure, I told him, but I do know we need napkins. I went to the pantry and pulled out napkins from the last birthday party (Hot Wheels for A's 8th) while pictures of missing family in London flashed across the screen.
Any moment, I thought just then, we can be hit and lose one another tragically, any moment life can end as we know it, one push of a button and nuclear war will break out, Armageddon is on the brink for god’s sake. Any second now, utter blackness. I smacked at a mosquito (West Nile River) and handed out napkins, stopping when everyone has a napkin for their laps. Louder than I intended to, I said, “I used too much pepper on the chicken.” I hoped not because M won’t eat the chicken if there’s too much pepper.
“I don’t like pepper, Mama!”
“There’s no pepper, I was wrong,” I said, trying to save dinner, “besides even if there is too much, the pepper will be drowned in a sea of catsup. Not to worry.”
As I sat down in my place, as I took a swig of beer, the doorbell rang and M and A tore from their seats, running fast to the door against all the rules because one never knows who’s going to be at the door, running as if they’re expecting the Sweepstakes, and they scream across the kitchen once at the forbidden door that it’s Johnny and Brendan and Ryan and they want to play. Without waiting for my answer nor sending the visitors away, the three kids tore back to their seats, grabbed chicken chunks and announced their fullness. Could they be excused now that they were done eating? D began to object and I drank more beer, shrugging my shoulders, muttering something about summer and who cares anyway? I didn’t hear what D told me.
I think it would be nice to take a break from calamity, dirtiness, bills, dissatisfaction and hunger, to fall apart in front of everyone, to scream and rant and rave and pull my hair out so I could be carted away, away for a day, for two, for two weeks maybe in a sanatorium, talking to air conditioned faces and sleeping through breakfast in the dining hall, through the friendship hour in the recreation room. Perhaps I could make a lot of noise and walk around the house in my nightgown and slippers all day, crying and walking and listening to “voices in my head” so I could be given the respite that I, the housewife, so need, so want. Maybe at night in the recovery ward I could watch I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch to ease my troubled nerves.
Fuck the world, I’d paint on my forehead! Strip the nightgown off and dance in front of our house, nude in the garden, dancing to reggae and disco of the seventies that only I hear, dance on top of the SUV, waving my arms about, claiming insanity and culture shock, weakened nerves and thrashed sensibilities.
The housewife, the mad, mad housewife, I’d be.
The dinner table was a wreck, forks and knives helter-skelter, pink and grey lily-swirled plates (gotten for our wedding) shamefully laden with food, Tupperware glasses half-empty of water and juice, one empty Corona beer for me with a wedge of lemon curled at the bottom. I cut the chicken slab on my plate into pieces, spread margarine on the broccoli and cauliflower (a frozen mix made by Birdseye), and ate, serene and smiling.
“Eat your chicken my dumplings,” I sang to my husband and absent children, “you need the protein to be productive members of society, to live long and prosper in our fine world.”
As background to my wisdom, I heard on the television, A giant panda bear was born today at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. The first one in 16 years, the mother at first was surprised…