3.17.2009

When Have You Ever Known Me to Want Anything?


Sean came up on the train from Eugene to help a friend move. He’s very good at it; he seems to enjoy it. He helped us move last year and kept bringing more heavy things up, going back down, bringing even heavier things up, without stopping and without complaining. If you didn’t know, you’d think he was getting paid a lot of money. You’d think he was eating ice cream the way he was smiling. When did he change from that kid who relaxed on the couch while watching his 80+ year-old grandfather, all red-faced and sweaty, break up concrete in the front yard?

The friend wasn’t able to use Sean’s help. I didn’t ask for details as I know what it’s like to have plans change so fast you can’t stay on top of everything. All I know is that Sean has the whole afternoon to spend with us.

We are too stressed to plan anything right now, so we’re thinking what are we going to do with Sean for a whole afternoon? On a normal day, we’re boring. On a stressed Sunday, we’re really boring. We go somewhere and sit all afternoon, drinking coffee and reading. This isn’t exactly a roller coaster of entertainment.

At some point you think, he’s going to just have to deal with it. If he wanted a roller coaster, he would have called somebody else to hang out with. He knows us. The most exciting thing we do is go to Kennedy School, eat pizza and watch the $3 movie. It doesn’t even matter what’s playing. We haven’t seen it.

Charlie picks him up and brings him back to the condo. Through the thin bathroom door I can hear them, come in and move about. If I wasn’t moving so quickly, I could hear what they’re saying. The bathroom door is really thin. You can hear everything.

I have my mind on other things. I’m working on the whole grooming thing. I fight this every morning. Weekends are the worst. It takes all the fortitude I have to get naked, get all wet then get all dry again, do the hair and face, decide what to wear, put it on and stick with my decision.

I think about people living a couple of hundred years ago. Sure they had the plague, but they didn’t have to waste so much time grooming. They didn’t have to work so hard either, unless they were poor kids in sweatshops. They had bigger problems than grooming.

I think further back, like what it’d be like to be living off the land in a cave, eating whatever you chased and whatever you found lying on the ground. Although it sounds nice, they didn’t have coffee and they didn’t have teeth. They died before they were 40 and they were probably too cold all the time, without shoes, so it’s possible extreme clothing indecision isn’t such a trade-off for the benefits of twenty-first century civilization.

I’m done grooming, regardless of the outcome. There’s a time limit to which my patience will not exceed. I’m vain but only up to a point.

Sean’s looking through the very old Blevins’ Blurbs, the family newspaper I’ve done for forever. I forgot I had them out. He must be really bored already.

“Why is this picture of Dylan next to Charlie’s anti-voodoo rant?” Sean asks.

At least once a year Sean mentions this voodoo article Charlie wrote. I used to think he was teasing Charlie for being so extreme and for taking a strong stand on people taking advantage of poor people in Haiti. Now I know it’s that Sean enjoys it when Charlie rants; the more extreme, the better. Encouraging, but possibly annoying to the rest of the extended family who also reads Blevins’ Blurbs.

“Are you asking me editorial questions from five years ago?” That takes some thinking. I look at the picture closer. “That’s the picture I took the day Dylan got his braces off.”

Sean continues to comment on my long-ago editorial decision. I’ve moved on. There is coffee to drink and magazines to read. Before we go, though, I have one more thing to do.

“These are for you,” I say, handing Sean a pile of books. He reads a lot of difficult books and I read a lot of easy books. It’s my duty to lighten his life a little and give him a break from thinking so deeply all the time. “I thought you might want something to read.”

I used to try to give him food, money, buy him clothes, more food, or transfer money to his account. I gave up. He won’t take it. He looks like he’s lost at least twenty pounds but the only thing he might accept from me is a book once in a while.

Being the mom, I don’t give up. “Do you want . . .” I can’t even finish the question.

“Mom, when have you ever known me to want anything?”

There must be something he’s wanted. I think hard, as hard as I can. There must be something, a book on Zoroastrianism, maybe? I can’t think of a thing.

“Nope,” Sean says. “Never happened.” He returns to looking through the bag of books. It appears he may be interested, or at least more interested in this than in anything else I can give him so I’ll let it go.

I think of myself as not wanting anything, but can I say this? If I said it, would my friends laugh? Would they bring up things they knew I wanted as recently as yesterday? Things like Guitar Hero, which I really want but really don’t want as I’d never, ever do anything thing else?

I want to be able to say this sometime in the future. Not wanting anything seems relatively light-living, green, stress-free, even. What would not wanting anything feel like? Would it make grooming easier? Would it make me worry less that I’m boring people? Would it make helping people move enjoyable?

It’s something to think about and I will, but later. All I can think about right now is how much I want coffee.