When he was a baby, and we lived in the loft, I used to dance around with him when he was cranky, or really anytime. We’d run (it was 3000 sq. ft.) and twirl, go so fast that sometimes the stroller was on only two wheels. There was a song that he loved, I loved, and that was what I’d play. Over and over. It was The Walk of Life by Dire Straights. You don’t hear it much anymore, but sometimes it comes on the radio and I always think of my careless laugh and his breathless joy, careening around the open space together, two birds of a feather.
Today I am at his apartment fixing broken things. Not broken because they just stopped working. Broken because some unknowable frustration has had its way with them: refrigerator handle wrestled off, towel rack bent beyond return. I arrived, my flowered purse filled with tools, slot-head screw drivers, two sizes, Phillips head, hammer, needle-nose plyers, wrench. Just like all the ladies. He is very agitated these days. After the three-week stay in the hospital, where they changed up his meds because he had become psychotic, he hasn’t settled yet. I implored them to keep him through the transition. I mean, changing serious, anti-psychotic meds after ten years is no small thing. The medications are titrated (tapered off) over a period of many weeks as the new ones are introduced. There is a lag time before the new ones reach efficacy and you know if you’ve even done the right thing. I begged them to keep him in the hospital until it was done, but insurance does not think this is warranted. Take him home and deal with it, Mom.
As I remove the destroyed parts of his apartment and replace them with expensive new ones, he starts yelling at me.
“Will you leave?” He says from the recliner chair I got from my friend Annie for him.
I try to explain that they are inspecting the apartment in two days and he will be evicted is they see all this.
He turns the television up really loud and bellows “What?”
Walking on eggshells, I continue my tasks. I feel like a small child who is going to get in trouble. He is the big, mean parent. The vertical blinds throw ridiculous prison stripes all over the apartment in an obvious effort at metaphor.
“Just LEAVE!” He yells. “Leave.”
I tiptoe into the bathroom. Wrestling with the metal towel rack, I knock over a pile of Ivory Soap bars. He switches the television over to the music station. The volume is still blaring.
I manage to get the new towel rod in without having to completely remove the brackets. Victory.
The Walk of Life begins to play in the living room. I fall to my knees. Really, I do. The guys are singing, choppy, hard beats… “turnin’ all the night time into the day.” Nick quiets down suddenly, just like he used to.
I wonder how long it has been since I’ve enjoyed a careless laugh.