The Dime

Today is shopping day. It is always a test of my Zen capabilities. Sometimes it is not fun, but sometimes it is. Nick can stand in front of the frozen entree section for twenty minutes. Deciding. He wanders off. Every single time we get to the cashier, he remembers something he needs. I can’t send him to “run” and get it, I may never see him again. So off we go to some far corner of the store and back to the end of the long line. My friends ask me why I even take him with me. I should just go myself. I explain that he wants to come, to pick out his own food. They say: let him make a list. I cannot explain the nuance of this activity to them. He is a grown man. He is crazy, but he is not a child. His abbreviated life leaves him in charge of very little. He wants to pick out his own food. I can give him that.

Off we go to the Walmart (in itself a test of one’s Zen) for his supplies: massive amounts of paper towels (never toilet paper…don’t ask), coffee, ivory soap, Simple Green, bologna, cheese, half and half, sugar, frozen entrees, and ice. Lots of ice.

We have a good time. He is lively and asks for new coloring books. Nick was on track to be a famous artist (seriously) and now he is happy to fill endless superhero outlines with colored pencils. He pulls one ridiculous item after another off the shelves and says, “Hey, let’s get this for Dad. He would like this.” A huge, neon Christmas sweater. A coffee mug with the face of a lion sculpted on it. Children’s candy shaped like cartoon characters. “Let’s get him this popcorn, for at night when he watches black and white movies!” 

I had to relent on that one because it connected directly with reality.

On the way home, he starts slamming his arm against the inside of the door. Then he pushes his legs forward and straightens his whole body. I’m afraid he’s going to break the seat. “Nick, Nick, what the hell? What’s wrong? You need to calm down!”

He glares at me with the dark, scary, crazy eyes and yells WHAT? Really loud. Here we go. I know that there’s nothing I can do. I can’t get mad at him, I can’t calm him down. Things are going on in his head I can’t even get near. It turns on a dime.

We pull up in front of his place, he flings the door open and jumps out. I sit in my seat, very small, as he grabs his groceries and slams the door with the velocity of a meteor hitting earth.

There is nothing I can do but pull away.

One dime. It turns on a single dime.

 Self-Portrait at 14                  watercolor on paper               Nicholas O'Rourke                 

Self-Portrait at 14                  watercolor on paper               Nicholas O'Rourke