On Tuesday, he told me he’d give me a thousand dollars to get up with the baby on his morning. I got up with the baby, of course I did, and we laughed in the kitchen and played our spin-the-salad-spinner-full-of-animal-magnets game, and I twirled her around while my coffee drip dripped in the machine. I thought of all the things I would buy her with a thousand dollars and felt full and happy.
But then he came into the kitchen later grumbling about work and pushed past me to the caffeine. I said, did you pay me yet? and he said, what? I said, I got up with the baby. A thousand dollars please. And he laughed and said, don’t be ridiculous I don’t have a thousand dollars.
That’s when an idea began to form. The particulars not so much, since I had to get the baby to daycare and hurry back to see a client, but the idea was forming. After packing the baby’s lunch, I left the dishes in the sink—something he abhors—butt ends of strawberries and smears of peanut butter on the cutting board, any trace of organic matter, anything that reminds him he’s alive.
I drove the baby around the winding freeways toward the mountains rising out of fog like dinosaurs. I sang to her the whole way to keep from screaming. From her carseat, I’m sure she saw the white icebergs of my knuckles on the steering wheel.
Then later my client said, what loneliness is and what it isn’t, and I almost cried. I didn’t because generally speaking, it’s not great for a therapist to cry in front of her clients. But after that is when the idea came to me fully. Not the specifics but the gorgeous word: strike. Clear as a sign in the hands of a strawberry picker, and it made me full and happy.
Now it’s evening, and the dishes are still in the sink with fruit flies circling, and the baby is still at daycare. I wonder who will pick her up. My phone won’t stop ringing, but my knuckles have melted like popsicles in the sun. One day she will understand and forgive me.