Today was your first day of school.
You knew off the bat we were not going to the babysitter. On the road, when we turned right instead of continuing South, you said, “This way! This way!”
We’d been telling you for a week that you were going to school. That you’d be playing with kids. That you’d be learning.
As with most things, you ignored us because you had better things to do. Lightning McQueen and Towmater and Mack truck and such. So important because now your life of nine to five has begun and this is the cage, welcome and sorry.
When we pulled up and put you on the sidewalk so you could walk on your own, you rooted your feet to the dirty concrete. I gotta be honest. I couldn’t look you in the eye.
Your mom and I each grabbed one of your hands and hopped you along the sidewalk, yanking you into the air and dropping you slowly back to the ground. I could tell you were not buying the hoppitty bullshit. You were tense, my boy. Like you were taking one of your bad shits. A seizure of suspicion. The blue wooden fence was an unfamiliar sight early in the morning. The old lady who greeted us was not the dark smiling woman who smells of curry and lets dogs lick you every day.
You did not want to cross the concrete courtyard to where the kids were having breakfast. I picked you up and carried you. I saw a rocking chair and put you in it.
Because rocking chairs comfort me.
You sat there and looked around from beneath your furrowed brow and slightly lowered head. You seemed to be checking the place out.
I told your mom we were leaving and she asked if we should say bye to you. I told her no.
I checked with one of the women who worked there, this was the right thing to do, right? Not make life difficult for everyone else by allowing our son to see our sadness and to share in it, to bring us to the point of saying fuck this, it’s pretty expensive anyway, we can wait another year or two or three or fuck preschool altogether, if we could figure out a way to win the Powerball, we would never have to educate you, you could avoid difficulty forever, you could grow up to be a super wealthy mongoloid asshole. But always happy.
She told me that yes, it was best if we just departed. So we did.
In the car, as we drove back home, I could see your mother’s head get lower and lower. Not bowed down, but a complete vertical drop, like ET is wont to do. An alien driving me around. Her shoulders twitched a little as we went and when we parked, she cried and her face was a green eyed question mark with ruddy cheeks. “We abandoned him.”
I said all the right things to comfort her.
I remember my first day of school: Kindergarten. 1982, I’m guessing. I never had any daycare or preschool or anything. Just always with my cousins. Four boys breaking things. Getting our ass beat a lot, though my aunts and uncles deny this shit the way escaped Nazis deny participating in war crimes. I remember being aware that this school thing was going to happen. And that WORK was being missed for this. For me.
I remember my father standing outside the low two door kindergarten building with his hands in his pocket. My god, he would’ve been 42.
I wrapped myself around his legs and apologized. I apologized for the universe, the big bang, for not reading the bible more, for talking back all the time, and for every horrible thing I would do after that day, just please don’t make me go to school. I did not look up at him. I buried my head in the stiff green of his pants legs and I could smell the dust of the polished metal that he fought every day and still does. My teacher pulled me away from him and into the classroom and he just stood there, his legs and the light of the sun and then the closing door.
Thirty years later, I saw my father’s face in my reflection in the bathroom mirror at work.