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Lions Roar : January 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2011 72 “have as many games as you like,” the man in blue said. The other two tilted their glasses to their lips and seemed okay with his decision. So there in the dying light of Xmas eve, we prepared to bowl, and i was glad because i wanted this to be a successful outing. The family breakup was still fresh and we needed something good to happen. every time i said goodbye to the boys these days, the older one hugged me tight, pressing his cheek to mine so i couldn’t help but notice a few sharp whiskers. “don’t always leave!” he moaned. his cheeks were rough-smooth and enflamed with adolescent flush, a combination of shyness and hormones. at fourteen he was raw and gangly with a mouth full of braces, but i would feel the softness of his cheek imprinted against mine, warm, for hours afterward. as for the twelve year old, i was concerned that he was even more than usually cheeky, to use an old-fashioned word. imp- ishly bold. a certain amount of retaliatory cheekiness was fine, but i worried he was forcing it. as instructed, we stepped around the wet center of the carpet, where the blue was darker. The margins were more fun to walk on anyway, festooned as they were with decorations of party hats and bright, colorful streamers. when we got to the last lane, we filled in names for our automatic scoring, selecting noms de bowl off the top of our heads, as was our habit: “Love machine” for the little one, “nervous wreck” for the older, “Powder keg” for me. But the older one said he wanted to be Powder keg, so i had no choice but to become nervous wreck. we bowled for an hour, having many laughs. The little one, Love machine, would shake his butt at us each time he threw the ball, then lick his fingertips and touch them to his butt as though it were sizzling. Powder keg kept complaining that Love machine was throwing off his game by aiming his laser pointer on the pins. “i’m just excited by it,” Love machine said. it was a hanukah gift from the week before and the novelty of being able to point a red beam anywhere he wanted had not yet worn off. our scores were comically low, and sometimes we took potshots to make them even lower. The whole time we bowled and ban- tered, the three guys at the counter talked authoritatively among themselves about car engines with their east Providence accents. They were enjoying their afternoon at leisure. we started a second game but decided to stop after one frame, when all three of us suddenly realized our bowling yen was satisfied. we wrenched our street shoes back on and walked the perimeter of the carpet back to the shoe rental counter. “That’s okay, it’s on me,” said the man in blue. “C’mon, you’re kidding,” i said. “You gents have yourselves a merry Xmas,” he said. outside we were infected with the Xmas spirit. Love machine beat us to the car and when Powder keg and i got there he was dancing on the roof. But inside the car Love machine’s mood suddenly crashed, and he declared he wished he were Christian so he could celebrate. “i think a lot of Jews feel that way around Xmas,” i said. “it’s a really nice holiday and we feel left out. That’s why there are so many Jewish parties in new York on Xmas eve.” Powder keg peered into my eyes, as he did these days, frank and hurt. “are you saying you’d rather be there?” he asked. “of course not,” i said truthfully. “There’s no place i’d rather be right now than here with you two.” we all thought about that for a minute, waiting for the car to warm up. “of course, i do have to get back there tonight after i drop you off, but for now there’s no reason we can’t take part in the feeling of Xmas. how about we go spread a little cheer somehow?” “how?” “i don’t know,” i said. “Buy a six-pack of beer for someone and leave it on their porch?” “Pretty sketchy, dad,” said Powder keg. “what if the home- owner has just decided to stop drinking and then he comes out- side and sees a six-pack in the snow for him? it might totally ruin his life.” Leave it to my oldest to always see the downside of things. This was a child of divorce, after all. his mom had asked his dad to forsake the family home, his dad had complied, and now Powder keg made it his business to go cheek to cheek with his dad so the nakedness between them was almost unbearable. “do you have to always leave?” he kept asking, every time it was the hour for me to go. “Could you please not?” So he was correct that down- sides did have to be considered. “alright, how about roses?” i said. “anonymous roses for someone? a gift out of the blue, from the rose boys?” This was acceptable as a working thesis. The frigid afternoon was fast dwindling as people bustled to finish their last-ditch Xmas errands, but we managed to find a flower store that was still open. it was crowded with statues of Jesus and smelled like a mortuary, but the large, humorless woman in back said she had some roses left, four dollars each, which offended me since i was used to new York prices—two dozen for ten bucks. was everything greed, corruption, bitterness? and was the answer to My oldest was a child of divorce. “Do you have to always leave?” he kept asking, every time it was the hour for me to go. “Could you please not?”