Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Baby Poop

I'm standing in a big box grocery store - maybe Target, maybe Safeway… Andronico's? - I'm not sure but it's got a dark black and white checkered floor polished to a high gloss. I can even make out myself in it.

Holding a lemon in my hand and standing by the produce aisle, I realize I'd absent-mindedly been gripping the lemon, squeezing it and running my fingers over its bumpy, oily skin. I'd been imagining a scenario where, as an elementary school student, my teacher had promised to get Maya Angelou in the classroom to speak to us. On the day the poet laureate was to arrive, a portly black gentlemen had entered the classroom, taken my teacher aside, and informed her that she wasn't going to make it. It was just an idea I was toying with - maybe the black gentleman would end up being Angelou herself in disguise, teaching us children our first lesson in the power of preconceived notions? It had occupied me for some time because when I finally looked up from my rumination I could see that I was blocking the herbs in front of me from other shoppers, and the cilantro, parsley, and thyme were being sprayed down with a cool mist.

I set the lemon down and headed toward the back door of the store. I knew my brother would be waiting in his car there - a 1990 Isuzu Trooper - with his wife. Today was a sort of play date for us. Since they'd had their first kid a couple years back, I'd seen less of them than before. And this was a shame, we all agreed. So, the second weekend of every month we'd agreed to meet up and do something together. Usually this was nothing more than me getting over to their house for a weekend. We'd make a couple drinks, stand around their kitchen island, and try to catch up as much as we could in our sarcastic way. Then somebody - usually my brother, sometimes me - would come up with an idea for what to cook for dinner and we'd spend the rest of the evening doing that. Cooking, drinking, and eating. These were all activities that lent themselves well to the kind of conversation we liked to have: about nothing in particular, but aways funny. It had to be funny.

When I approach the car I can see my brother, Andre. He looks tired but happy. I feel a sudden intense but fleeting sadness, but I can't pin down its origin before it leaves me. I know that it shows on my face and that the first thing Andre will ask me, in his goading way, will be, "Are you MAD?" and that I'll say "No! I'm sad." And that would be the end of it.

I hop in the front seat of the car because Anna - the wife - is in the back with their youngest, Caleb. After cheerful, familiar hellos we set off through the parking lot. Anna's busy with the baby in back, trying to change Caleb's diaper. Andre and I look at Anna and then each other dubiously; she's always trying to do things like this, or more accurately, to do things in this way. We can't just find a bathroom somewhere, we have to watch as Anna insists she can do this thing in the car. I usually find Anna's idiosyncratic approach to life funny: something in me likes to watch her struggle with a problem like few other people would. But Andre's getting visually flustered, asking Anna, "Do you really need to do that right now? I mean, like right this second?" "Andre," Anna replies, "I'll be done in a second." Which clearly doesn't sit well with Andre, who replies, "You're killing me Anna. You. Are. KILLING. Me."

The baby isn't making things any easier for her, squirming around on his back and smiling at me. Suddenly, Caleb's diaper half off, Andre makes a sharp turn and Anna dumps it and its entire contents on the car's back seat. She screams, Andre screams, I'm holding back laughter until the smell hits me and I need to roll down my window. And then we're all laughing. "Is everything alright?" I ask. "It's ok," says Anna, "It's just baby poop." "Yeah, baby poop," Andre explains, "It's alright to be ok with it. It doesn't mean it's a like a fetish or anything if you're ok with it."