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April 08, 2024

All the Days of the World

By Tony Gloeggler

All the Days of the World

Every day's an equation
complicated by fractions
and decimals that we try
to solve for X and Y except
there are no answers to scrape
on a blackboard. Several times
an hour we decide how long,
how hard to fight and fit
Jesse into the world, how
often he can be himself
and let everybody else
adapt to him. It's a see-saw
we never step off, sixteen
waking hours of an endless
summer Saturday to fill.

How late can we lie
in bed as Jesse watches
the same twenty seconds
of his Winnie The Pooh
video, jumps up and down
every time the honey spills?
How long before the guy
downstairs starts beating
a broomstick against his ceiling,
bangs on our door with his fist?
Should I explain autism once
more, show him the thick rug,
the gym mats placed in front
of the TV? Should I skip
the formalities, threaten
to kick his ass again? How
often can he call the cops?

OK. It's my turn to get up.
7:15, breakfast. If you
were me, would you give
Jesse the only thing
he eats, open a new bag
of Extra Spicy Dorito Chips,
place it on the kitchen
counter, let him take
as many as he wants
whenever he wants?
Or how many hours would
you let him cry, howl?
Could you hold out until
Jesse grew hungry enough
to sit at the table, use
a fork to lift a sliver of egg,
bring a spoon of cereal
to his mouth, just to spit
it out and scream in pain
as if the texture, the taste
burned rivets in his tongue?

Helen walks into the kitchen
looking sleepy and soft.
I want to spend the entire
day in bed, only getting
up to change records
on the stereo. She holds
me from behind, kisses
my neck, then crouches,
grabs Jesse in a huge
mama bear hug. He wraps
his legs around her waist
and they dance over
to the couch, collapse
in bundled up laughter.

Today it's Coney Island.
The knapsack's packed
with juice and chips, sun
screen he'll immediately
wipe off. We're following
our magic rule of three
for anything new. First trip,
we drove all the way there,
slowly circled the avenues
and pointed out various
attractions and drove
right home. Second time,
we parked. Hoping to avoid
his drops to the ground
when he rolls around,
cries and refuses to move,
we plopped Jesse in
his wheelchair, took turns
pushing him, stopped
and watched the things
we expected, guessed
would light up his eyes

This Saturday, we get out
of the car, walk hand
in hand with Jesse
in the middle. We start
with the rides, pass by
the ones with long lines
and try the Wonder Wheel.
Jesse starts out clinging
tightly in the corner
to his mom, but suspended
at the top he looks over
the edge, watches the world
below. Sliding off, he grabs
my arm and we ride five
more times. He stamps
his feet, starts to screech
when we stop in front
of the other rides. Down
the boardwalk, we pay
and enter the Aquarium.
He rushes by the walruses
and sharks we point out,
focuses on kicking pebbles
down heat grates, dropping
handfuls of food into the turtle
pool, fascinated by the way
it filters through his fingers,
kisses the surface then sinks
in slow motion. We keep
walking to the nearly deserted
beach. Jesse runs toward
the water, splashes and jumps
backwards over knee high
waves as Helen spreads
a blanket. She lays her head
in my lap, reads. I keep watch.
When it grows too dark to see
and a chilly breeze begins
to blow off the ocean, I stand
and shout, like a blue-eyed soul
singer, something about
going home. But Jesse
is too busy having a good time
to hear and I strip down
to boxers, run in, finally
catch up to him. I throw him
over my shoulder, let him kick,
scream all the way to the car.

First published in The Examined Life

Article © Tony Gloeggler. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-08-12
Image(s) are public domain.
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