I am sitting on the floor in a sparse room while a child not yet two years-old clings to a pillow and bangs his head in a long, slow, hard rhythm from between his legs to the crib wall behind him. Four feet across from him, another child of the exact same age, produced in the exact same womb lays squat like a frozen turkey, face stuffed into a palm tree and rhino adorned mattress.
This is how my evenings go. I sit on the floor and wait for babies to sleep. My wife, she goes to work. She watches people too. Tonight, she is a “sitter.” Sometimes she's a Nurse's Assistant. They do the nasty stuff that is too menial even for the nurses, and nurses do the work too menial for the nurse practitioner who does the work too menial for the doctor who's too busy filling out malpractice insurance forms to deal with a patient that probably has some kind of horrendous and contagious disease anyways. But tonight she is a “sitter” and she will be assigned to a room and she will sit in the room and make sure the patient in the room doesn't do anything to injure themselves. Sometimes these people are insane. Sometimes delirious. Often they are confused. Often, suicidal. She sat for a fourteen year-old girl that had attempted suicide. When people aren't in the room, she goes for it. So there's always someone in the room. Last night she was a Nurse's Assistant. They had to put a lady in restraints. A woman that wanted to “kill all the white people.” She was high. She is a regular at the hospital. A weekly.
I have to sit here on the floor because my babies can climb. I'm not allowed to put them in restraints the way they do Whitey-Killer at the hospital. Several state and federal laws prohibit me from strapping otherwise healthy, mobile children to a crib at night. So I sit and wait, sometimes for hours, for them to go to sleep. Children at this young an age, while still incapable of complex sentence structure and fine motor skills, enabled with the ability to follow only very simple, one or two part instructions can none the less devise and execute thousands of ways to kill themselves. Two children of the same age take the concept of simple suicide and working together bring it to that media darling of murder-suicide. I've watched these two in action. No amount of “baby proofing” can protect such self-destructive beings. I've seen them make napalm from stuff they purchased from a hardware store after drugging my wife and I with an organic chloroform synthesized from plants they picked from the backyard.
When (if) they ever go to sleep, if the evening isn't shot, if I'm not worn to a black soulless stub of a once vibrant happy human, I'll crawl to my room, grunt some instructions to the older children (who, while not all that much brighter than the twins are much more sedate thanks to my vast home collection of video entertainment products and the twin's chloroform, which I have saved), plant myself in my chair and open a textbook on biology or chemistry and plead with my depleted brain to just absorb something, anything from the book.
I have to broker deals with my brain. It is very worried. It is worried that I have no money. It's right, I don't, but I promise it that one day I will have money. Not so much from my studying, but from my wife's, whose skills and education are actually wanted in the job market. My brain is worried that I have two cars, one with no transmission and one in the act of losing it. My brain is worried that I have to balance two jobs, two adults in school (one in school forty fucking hours a week), two children in school, and two children in diapers on a deficit budget until a miracle happens. Again, this miracle is my wife. So the deal I broker with brain is this: ignore all this shit and I will periodically blast you into oblivion with alcohol. My brain agrees. Although sometimes it smacks me around with reality, just to keep me in line.
I am still sitting on the floor, and Leif (the youngest of my children for no reason other than he was the second one they extracted from my wife) is still head banging, still wide-eyed, still conceiving of ways to make explosive powder with the rust from an old bike that sits outside his window.
Tomorrow I will have my car inspected, I will get a new driver's license to replace the one that lists an address I haven't lived at for five years (and has a picture of a man so obese so hungover so unrecognizable that I have been rejected the service of alcohol more the once). I will buy food for my snakes, for my tarantula, for my scorpion. The cat can forge for herself. I will lift weights, I will spend quality time with my wife, with son #1, with daughter, and with sons 3 and 4. Individually. Somewhere in there I will cook 18 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner for six people), I will make notes on my biology and chemistry work, perhaps go to the Greenbelt and swim. Maybe read, maybe write. Sometimes I feel insane.
I believe in living life to the fullest. In that this is the only life we have, to live it. To go and live and experience and not fear the consequences. There are enough people that think only in the black and white that I often have to step back and explain that no, that doesn't excuse rape and murder and exploitation and whatever other nonsense that is universally held as wrong.
My son is still awake. I have sat here for an hour and his eyes won't close. I'm not sure they've even blinked. I don't think he got into my cocaine. Probably makes his own.
I wonder if it will ever be any different. Will my wife and I, both college educated people, both working, collectively making less than half the poverty line, deeply in debt and sinking further – will we ever have enough to get by? Enough to go on a road trip? To own more than one pair of shoes? I couldn't care less about Europe, about traveling there, visiting cities – oh boy, foreign concrete! - but I wonder if Europe will ever even be there. In my life, in my existence, Europe may as well not be. Because it is not now, nor has it ever been, an option. Mexico. Canada. New Mexico. Big Bend Texas. Dallas. A bar on a Saturday night. Going to a movie. They aren't. Not in my world. I wonder if they will be.
I have done the math several thousand times. If my wife graduates – If I graduate – If the car holds up - If the in laws don't decide to muscle us around – If the children stay healthy, my wife stays healthy, I stay healthy – If
We just might.
The boy is on his back and he's shaking his head from side to side. And his eyes are closed. He's falling asleep.
I've got to go to the other room now. Open a text book. Spend the rest of my night reading about cells, about cell membranes, about membrane proteins.
Because the Ifs only are if you make them. If you don't, they just Aren't.