At 4:30 in the morning, Max texted me.
Are you awake? he asked.
Well, I am now, I said. What’s up?
Turns out that he was T-4 hours from Alaska departure and was freaking out because his airline (Delta if you’d like to boycott them) was going to charge him $400 for the baggage he was taking back to California.
He’d made the trip to Alaska in a car. A very old car. A car so dilapidated, I was convinced it was going to fall apart on some deserted stretch of highway in British Columbia.
(You know that highway. The plat du jour at its one lonely diner is always long pork. There’s a service station that still sells gas for 23⊄ a gallon, and it’s staffed by zombies.)
Somehow, though, the car managed to make it all the way from Berkeley to Anchorage, but there was no way it was up to making a return trip.
There’d been a lot of stuff in that car, and much of it made the trip back to California with Nathan and John after they drove up to visit Max. But a lot of it was being crammed into suitcases in the hours before his flight.
What am I going to do? asked Max.
With more notice, you could mail some stuff to yourself, I said. But I don’t think you have the time to do that now. You’ll just make yourself anxious. If I were you, I’d just go ahead and check the bags – and think of this as a teachable moment. Resolve NEVER to get yourself in this situation ever again. Theoretically, at least, $$$ is a renewable resource.
I thought a few seconds and added, I’ll cover half the cost of the bags.
Am I fuckin’ nuts or what?
Should I feel flattered that my kid reaches out to me in times of need? Or should I feel like I’m being had?
After the plane arrived safely, Max called. “Thanks, Mom!”
“For what? Two hundred bucks is not a huge amount of money – “
“Oh, yeah. Well, that was very generous of you. But I mean, thanks for talking to me. I was really starting to feel anxious and panicky, but communicating with you really helped me calm down.”
Then he told me that one of the suitcases contained 60 pounds of fish on dry ice that he and his father had caught the last week he spent in Alaska when Bill went up to visit him.
Are you kidding me? I paid for Bill’s fish?
Until recently, Bill, please to note, made around $200,000 a year as a research neurophysiologist for Allergan. He has stock options! Why didn’t Max call his father when he was freaking out about luggage overages?
The only sane reaction to the things that happen to us every day is laughter. Most of the time.
This was the same day I noticed that Ben had removed me from his Facebook flist.
As a matter of fact, I was traveling up to T-burg that very afternoon: Last time we’d seen each other, Ben and I had made a date to watch the Trumansburg Fair Demolition Derby preliminaries together, and tonight was the date.
Ben called to review logistics. “What time are you planning to get here?”
“Around 5pm. I was planning to stop in Roscoe along the way to see if I can talk Donald Trump Jr. out of committing suicide. Supposedly, he hangs out a lot at the town bar.”
Hilarious banter ensued.
“So,” I said. “Facebook. Not that anyone gives a fuck about Facebook, you understand, but why did you unfriend me? Just out of curiosity. Are you mad at me or something?”
“No! I’m not mad at you at all! I just figured that since we’re friends in real life, we don’t have to be friends on Facebook!”
The logic seemed a bit… off. But wotthehell.
But the truth came out when I arrived in T-burg.
“See, Dana and I are negotiating a relationship contract,” Ben told me. “And this book we’re reading says it’s a really bad idea to stay in contact with your exes on social media.”
“Well, we are exes,” I said. “Although frankly, I don’t think of you as an ex. I think of you as an extremely close friend.”
“Well, you and I text all the time. And we talk a lot on the phone. I figure we don’t need to use social media to stay in touch.”
This, of course, is true. Although I imagine the next thing they will be negotiating in their relationship contract is the inadvisability of regularly texting or calling your exes.
Since the new girlfriend lives 3,000 miles away in Sicily, and since, to date, they’ve spent less than two weeks breathing in each other’s carbon dioxide molecules, I think negotiating a “relationship contract” may be a bit… premature. But, hey! Mine is not to judge.
And I suppose if the goal of a romantic relationship is the formation of an impenetrable dyad that’s orthogonal to any other intimate relationship with a member of one’s sexual gender preference, then it makes perfect sense to cut off communications with me. Ben and I are definitely emotionally intimate (though I no longer feel the slightest degree of physical attraction toward him.) And any emotional intimacy that takes place outside the dyad is a form of emotional infidelity, right?
Thing is that’s just such conventional thinking.
And I’ve always given Ben credit for thinking outside the box.
But Ben has always been what I describe as an emotional hermit crab. He crawls into the preconstructed lives of his inamoratas. He’s very chameleon-like. He adapts and adopts.
And for a guy with such an excellent sense of humor, he’s strangely attracted to humorless women. I think I’m the only woman he was ever with who actually bantered along with his riffs. Dana is a therapist – of course! – and so far as I can tell, a hipper, more international reboot of the basic dour Jayne LeGros model. Humorless in other words.
Kinda like Ben's mother. I mean -- since we're pretending to be therapists here!
Apparently, they spend 20 hours a week on average Skyping.
“What do you talk about?” I asked.
“Everything. Anything,” he said.
But from the little snippets he let drop, it mostly seems like they talk about his problems. “When I first told Dana, I’d been a junkie, she said, ‘But that’s not your dirty little secret, is it? Your dirty little secret is really something quite different.’”
“Like what?” I asked. Ever hopeful for some fresh hot gossip!
He shook his head. “Oh, you know. The usual crap. The traumas that go on in everyone’s childhood.”
The intimation of secret knowledge that penetrates through his usual lies and manipulations is like Spanish fly to Ben!
My feelings are hurt but whatever. He seems really happy right now, and he has a right to that happiness, and I understand why he wants to do whatever it takes to help ensure that happiness.
If I can’t draft anyone beside Ben to be the other voice in my own inner dialogue, it's on me.
The Demo Derby turned out to be great fun, and tonight Ben, RTT, and I will be teaming up again for Trivia Night at Atlas Bowl.
Tomorrow I take off, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll be up this way again.
“I think that fuckin’ sucks that Dad took you off his friends’ list,” RTT said. He said it many times. He meant it, too.
“Oh, I don’t care, honey,” I said. “I mean Facebook is hardly the psychic roundtable at which all true emotions are arbitrated, right? People do what they need to do to make themselves happy. And anyway, the only two people on this planet who aren’t entirely replaceable for me are you and Max.”