Saturday, April 27, 2013

No one knows I’m here.

Okay, I am going to come clean. I’ve been stealing from my family. Taking what’s not mine. Embezzling moments from my children, a few at a time. Sneaking a few odd clock-beats away, and hoarding them to myself. 

I’ve been pilfering an hour or two, here and there, a couple times a week. I’m sure Mrs. Ditchman can see right through me, but I’ve convinced myself, with some weenie logic, that it’s all necessary.

Sometimes it’s before work. On my way, I’ll hit a Starbucks and linger for an hour, and not entirely regrettably. And sometimes on my way home, if the work day goes smoothly and passes fast, I’ll stop in at a local microbrewery -one of those unnoticeable places down a clean grey alley in an unassuming low-rise industrial park. They’re happy to have me.

If I bring my own glass I get to sample their beer for a cheap two or three dollars, (I pay cash, so there is no traceable cyber-trail.) Then I take a seat on a bench in the back of the room. I lean my pack up against the rack of big oak barrels emblazoned with brew dates. And then I slip out my laptop, unfold the technical majesty, and type a bit, until the battery goes dead. As long as the Lithium heat from the microprocessors doesn’t raise the ambient temperature and affect the fermentation process, no one cares. No one knows I'm here. No one, that is, but the bartender.

The beer’s all right. So’s that corporate coffee. A lot of places are loud and well-patronized and they have free Wifi. It’s just like home, of course, but at home... well... everybody knows your name.

Cheers,” are the only words I exchange with anyone for an hour. Here, I am a nameless superhero, as repeat customers are so often treated. As well, I have the one-off power of invisibility. Even as I type this, no one notices me. It’s the only place I can concentrate, in my inconspicuous solitude.

I’ll limit myself to one latte, or two beers, and I’ll type and think for a while. Sometimes I read up on things. And then the guilt gets to me and I’ll have to pack up and blast off. Get on with life.

I can’t explain why I have to be so selfish, but it’s the only thing that’s working for me right now. In my defense, there are a thousand worse things I could be doing. You know what they are. I don’t believe I am the only dad who does it, and I’m not going to shame them by listing the things they’re doing. And I know that there are better dads out there who do it less, but there are other dads here, I can tell, and my half-sober views are vindicated by their presence. And that’s the downside of invisibility: while engaged, you see everyone else who is also invisible.

I do believe it’s mostly harmless, and somewhat productive. At least I have something to show for the serpentine tendencies in my daily schedule: this is, at best, a word count, and a certain cerebral justification for that useless liberal arts degree I’m still paying for. Those assholes conned me.

At worst, it is an indulgent man-joke. Irreverent, self-involved escapism. A professional sport. Men kid themselves that they need cave-space, but in truth, it’s the opposite. They’ve always been self-involved cave-dwellers. What they really need is a home-maker. A truth-teller. A lion-tamer. A woman. Someone who fills the lonely gaps of life with her own invisible, intoxicating scent. Which is why I won’t linger any longer in this cold empty space, and which explains why I so easily tire of such lonesome superpowers.

[Cel phone rings... Invisibility permeated...]

“Hi, honey. I’ll be home soon.”