You wake up at 11 to the blackberry buzzing. You see it's Ben.
"I want to sleep at your house."
That's a 180 from the derisory treatment he and Louisa gave the new apartment last weekend, when Louisa asked, "Are you poor now?"
You said "No, sweetie, of course not. I just don't need as much space as the house."
Ben said "As much space? This is like- the den."
"Oh come on, it's not that bad. It's like the den and- your and Lou's bedrooms!"
That's when they both started clamoring to go home. You are puzzled but also happy with this turn in attitude just a week later.
"Sure, I mean, if your mom is ok with it."
"OK- can I talk to her?"
Ben drops the phone unceremoniously. You wait, nothing. Wait some more. Finally you hang up and call back. Barbara answers.
"Well, it's the hero."
"Ben tells me you offered to rescue him from this den of iniquity."
"He called and said-"
"HE called? He said you called."
"No, he called, and he asked to sleep over."
"Oh, really, well that's not the story I got. Do you have my check by the way?"
"Yes, I mean, I will, is it already the first?"
"It's the fifth."
"Well why don't I bring it when-"
"I didn't say yes to this, he's not behaving, he refuses to clean up his room, he says he's not going to therapy tomorrow, he just wants to get out of it."
"What do you mean why not, since when does he need a reason, you never made him do anything so he's just carrying on the tradition."
"I wouldn't say never-"
"Name one thing."
You are mentally calculating what money is where to put in the checking account so the check won't bounce. And you aren't coming up with anything so quickly.
"Yes is the only word these kids have ever heard from you. They wouldn't be so screwed up-"
"They are not so screwed up! They are tweens. Right? Isn't that their job?"
"Whatever. You don't get off the hook."
"I know, right, I never get off the hook, let's stipulate that as your lawyer would say."
"And your lawyer doesn't?"
"My lawyer is a putz."
"You hired him."
This is spiraling downhill. You attempt a recovery.
"Should I pick him up or-?"
"If you take him you have to take Lou too."
"Does she want to come?"
"She says your apartment is a poor apartment."
"Yeah well I can think of some reasons for that."
"Oh no you don't, you put yourself in this mess, don't you start again with me about that."
"Right, ok, fine, if Lou wants to come of course I want her to."
"You talk to her."
The phone makes a clunking noise, as if dropped on the floor. You hear Barbara calling Lou then footsteps and some scuffling, and then Lou in the background saying "NO!"
"Hon it's daddy."
"I don't want to."
"Don't want to what?"
"Talk to him. I don't-"
"Don't you want to go sleep at daddy's with Benjamin?"
"No. He has a bad apartment. It's really bad."
"Hon it's not a bad apartment."
"It's over the pizza."
Barbara giggles, which is a bit infuriating, that giggle is worth a thousand derisory words. And then the phone goes dead. You call back, but it goes to voicemail. Then you text Barbara to call when it's worked out with the kids.
Although this experience was purely auditory it felt like looking in a diorama containing the ghosts of your prior life. You sit there in the middle of the room, and vow once again to get furniture immediately, it's too depressing, the phone, the mirror, the card table, the only furniture in what serves as a living room though it's really the kitchen, or the dining-kitchen-living room, open plan, that's it, open plan, it may be 400 square feet but it's open.
As you wait for the return call which ultimately does not come until three hours later, you reflect that you have been, in effect, bombed back to the stone age by divorce, financially, emotionally. By your own doing, by the way, so there's no one even to blame except the schmuck in the mirror propped on the floor holding the phone and listening to his daughter shriek her objections to- pretty much everything about his new life.
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