On Fridays, Brian comes home laden down with bags of chips and coke, some slanty drinks, maybe a frozen pizza or two to indicate good intent. He is done work, and pours himself a martini, while I hustle around finishing my day, wiping surfaces, putting away evidence of Monday to Friday. Our (big) kids filter down to the kitchen, rip open bags of ketchup chips, crack open a root beer, lick the salt and vinegar off their fingertips. Last baby gone with their mama, I shout my commands- "Make me the best gin and tonic you've ever laid your magic hands on!" and he sets to work. He is a master, and soon I'm craving celebratory music. We crank the tunes until the wall vibrates and Micah complains he can't hear his computer game. If the blender is working particularly well that night, we start to dance and the kids roll their eyes and call their friends to Please! come and get me!
But Brian isn't coming home today. He left me for two men and someone named Jesse Cook in Minneapolis who apparently sings better than I do.
I recall the years I didn't need him. I summon them.
After work I take my own self to Bigway. I know where they keep the chips. And since they got fancy and broke away from East Village, there's a liquor aisle too- I didn't spend Friday afternoon quiet time pinning recipes for new gin drinks for nothing. Out in public for the first time in days, I'm suddenly aware of my self. Rumpled hand me down crop pants that looked cute on my daughter. Hairy legs poking out- forgotten since that "Heaven is Real" experience in Mexico weeks and weeks and weeks ago. And weeks. A big wool sweater thrown over a cardigan that fit me well ten years ago, thrown over a cami with a "built in bra" (WHO do they make these for?? Eleven year old boys?)
Mocassin shoes. No socks.
Put my head down, hustle to the liquor aisle. Be grateful everyone's given up on me by now anyway.
And dang. I need him. I've been known to phone Brian from the liquor store- "Brian? Do I like chardonnay? (No.) Do I like pinot grigio? (yes). Do I like Sauvignon Blanc? (yes).
But tonight he is out of range. I'm looking at flavored vodkas (i dunno... too sweet?), strongbow (I dunno... bored of that?), champagne....( but alone? That's completely pathetic?) and I'll never know because I've lost my phone a friend option. I know I've spent a really long time wandering up the two aisles in town and I'm getting paranoid- I look like I'm a beverage virgin, right? And the store is about to call the brotherhood to come and haul me away? So, although I don't know at all, and I forgot all my recipes at home, I pretend to know that I want berry flavored vodka. And four Mike's hard, Mango.
Two bags of chips and a box of frozen chicken bits later, and I'm on my way.
The house sure is quiet when I reenter. No dance tunes. No chip munching. Just a wee little note from my Sam- "gone to Aaron's. Sam." And my weird little heart breaks a little. My friend Karla thinks that Sam is perpetually three years old, the age he was when she first met him. And I guess in ways, I do too. How could I come home from the store, lovingly prepared frozen chicken in hand, and find that he's gone. Big enough, strong enough... and goodness. It stops me short.
It's just me and Micah now. Brian has left us for some guy named Jesse. Arianna went and grew up, moved off to "the village" and sends texts that make me love her like a friend. Jane is off to work, saving up for her own adventures. And Sam. Even Sam.
So I make some chicken for Micah and we crack open the salt and vinegar. He tells me what he's playing and I pretend to understand, grateful he tells me at all.
But its quiet after he says; "thanks" and retreats to his online adventures. Not so easily daunted, I remember Songza, which I had deleted from my phone to make more room for photos and pinterest. I love music as much as I love wine, but please don't ask me what I like. I'd have to phone Brian, and we all know he's not available.
Clearly, I don't know what to choose on Songza, and after trying, "Putting on your Party Dress" (nope), "Brand New Music" (nope), and "Drinking at a Bar" (definitely not), I find myself settling at "Today's Happy Pop". I suspect this may not be a good thing but there's just no way of knowing, until MIcah walks through and says- "One Direction?" and I say, humbly- "I have no idea."
I'm just relieved he didn't catch me at the stereo moments earlier, trying to figure out how Brian magically makes his phone play tunes through the speakers on Friday nights. I got so far that I knew what end of which cord to put into the phone and could faintly hear the songs trapped somewhere inside the stereo system, but there's no button I could discover to release the tension. Never mind that, the phone is losing battery power and that's just too many cords and options to think about for one night. Alone.
I refuse to think its a coincidence that at 8:20, just when I'm thinking; "I wonder when a responsible parent would pick up an eleven year old boy?" the song "Happy" by Pharrell comes up on Songza, immediately followed by "Thrift Shop".
It has been strange, this Friday, but happy. And if after I get Sam at 9:00 PM, I might just crawl into my big old (double mattress... same one for 22 years now... Is that illegal?) bed all by myself, with Miriam Toews' latest book "All My Puny Sorrows", No one will mind me keeping my lamp on past 10:10 (ha! Brian! I rebel at your need for the dark!). By 10:15 I will be fast asleep.
Plenty of rest to ready myself for a wee morning road trip- turns out I put a winning bid on an ancient sewing machine in a thrift shop on the Darp Side.
So raise your glass with me to Jesse Cook, to man road trips, to kids growing up, to small town life.
Even to dancing, all by yourself, to your phone.
On a different kind of Friday.