It’s been a few years since I sponge-painted one of the walls in our downstairs bathroom. Tonight, I sit on the toilet to pee and notice, for the first time, that the sponge patterns have left a row of tiny faces next to the door jam. I look at them. They look back, mocking me. “I see you,” I say.
They laugh. “You’re flunking everything,” they say. “Listen to your son doing his homework upstairs with his dad. You should be there.” I flip them the bird, and reach for the toilet paper, studying their tiny features.
I snap a photo of them, but can’t find the one who said “You wait until the last minute for everything. That’s why you’ll never finish your book. Fiction? Ha. Good luck.” I flush and walk upstairs. I am my own kryptonite.
“Come on, Buddy. Spell the word ‘dress’ for Mommy,” my husband says. “D? And then ss I think,” my son says. I linger, pulled to the keyboard downstairs, having waited again until the last minute to write something for Finish the Sentence, and then sit on the steps with my little boy. “Dress,” I say. “D-R-S-S,” he says. We try a few times. He starts to become agitated. Almost angry. “Me too,” I think, but don’t say.
“Please, can you just do this,” looking at my husband. “Of course,” he said.
I walk downstairs feeling triumphant and like a failure. I am my own kryptonite.
“Be friends with the people you think are too good for you,” my dad says. Unthinkable.
A few years later, he says it again. This time, I listen. I am my own kryptonite. I throw my kryptonite, my weakness, far from the car window while we drive on the freeway. It runs after me, and attaches itself to my bumper. It is mine as much as I am hers.
There was a woman at work who looked like a supermodel. “What’s the tall chick’s name,” they’d ask. Always the men from the other building asked about her. I started talking to her more. We ate together. Traveled to meetings on the same flights. I realized somewhere between laughter and exchanged stories and circumstances that she has her own insecurities. What we’d thought was an amazingly sexy foreign accent, she saw as a barrier. “I don’t know what ‘scootch’ means,” she said.
“Oh! It’s just slang for ‘move over,” I replied.
We became friends. We’re still friends. I treasured her then, and treasure her today. I know her now. I am and always have been my own kryptonite.
“Buddy, I just have to make one more work call, and we’ll shoot water balloons,” I said.
“Please don’t call, please please very please,” he said.
“We’ll do water balloons, I promise, but I have to be done with this first,” I said. I rubbed my head, annoyed, and then got annoyed that I was annoyed. “It’s not his fault,” the faces from the bathroom wall yelled upsairs. “I know, but f*ck,” I said.
I dialed into the conference, and thought about life, later. Saw myself sitting in a psychiatrist’s office while my son waited for her to tell me what she could. “He should have had less screen-time at six,” she says.
“I know,” I reply, and bow my head, remembering how I dialed rather than filling tiny balloons with water and launching them into the street. I am my own kryptonite.
Traffic, driving home. Again. “Will I ever get the timing right?” I said. “No,” the voice replied because I am my own kryptonite. In response to my sunken shoulders, she offered “But you can do water balloons today after school.”
And so we did.
I sit down to pee again, and look at the faces. “Mommy,” from upstairs. I look away from the faces. “Go,” they say. “And hold off on making that shrink appointment. Water balloons and post-homework hugs matter, too.”
“He’ll be fine,” they say. “We all are, or enough, anyway,” they said.
“Thanks,” I say, knowing they’re right.. I turn off the light, and once again, they are sponge-dots on a painted bathroom wall.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. Today’s sentence was “My kryptonite is…”
I had a hard time with this one because the more I thought about it, I realize thatI am my own kryptonite. I am the one who didn’t finish my degree the first time around. I’m the one that waited to make friends with the lovely person at work, just because she looks like a supermodel. It is I who put guilt on choosing work over water balloons although most of me knows that water balloons with a six year old should always win over work.
It is also I who chose water balloons today, after school, and picked up the tiny colored rubber pieces alone so that my son could fill up a few more before dark.
So while I get in my own way more often than anything else does and am my own kryptonite, sometimes, a face on the bathroom wall or on a little boy who says “very please” is the kryptonite that makes me stronger, and right.
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