I’ve always had a calm personality--placid is the word my mother would say. When I was a child and lived in a real house, not in this Home, she was always saying big words like that. Even though my mother was really smart and I had a hard time understanding her, she would explain things to me, like telling me placid means calm, like a placid lake or a placid personality. “You’re like me, Sue,” she would say. “You have a placid personality.” Placid means calm and that’s the way I am, calm.
But my daddy was not placid. He was not calm. He had an “explosive” personality. Explosive is another big word my mother used, and I still remember what it means. It means he could explode at the drop of a hat. I never understood the hat part, but I still remember how bad his temper was. When someone has a bad temper, my mother told me, it means he has an explosive personality. He explodes. My daddy exploded a lot, but I still loved him. I miss him a lot, not as much as I miss Mommy, but still a lot. When I do my Deep Thinking, sometimes I think about him.
Eduardo is having one of his bad days, and I wish it wasn’t Sunday. If it wasn’t Sunday, I wouldn’t be here, I would be on the bus, doing my Deep Thinking, or else at my job, scrubbing pots and pans. But it is Sunday, and Eduardo is having a bad day. Eduardo is different from the rest of us. He is smarter. He knows a lot of words and no one has to tell him what they mean. Sometimes he yells things and even when I beg him to stop, he won’t. I tell him please be quiet, please stop, but he can’t. Sometimes he says the same words over and over until I have to put my hands over my ears. Today he is saying “Son of a ...” He doesn’t say the last word, but I know what it is. Today he is saying these same words every few minutes and finally Miss Mancini walks over to him.
“Eduardo, Eduardo,” she says, “look at me.” But Eduardo does not look at her, instead he looks at the ceiling. “Son of a..., son of a ....” he says twice, right in a row.
Miss Mancini puts her hands on Eduardo’s shoulders, but I know she is not hurting him. She does not squeeze hard when she does that, not like Mr. Grayson does. One time Mr. Grayson squeezed my arm so hard I got a bruise there but he said if I told anyone I would never ever get dessert again, so I didn’t. But Miss Mancini never squeezes hard, so I know she is only trying to get Eduardo’s attention, which she finally does.
“Eduardo,” she says in her calm, placid voice. “Did you take your medicine this morning?”
Eduardo looks right in her face and says “Son of a ...”
But Miss Mancini does not get mad, she only asks the same question again.
“Did you take your medicine, Eduardo?”
Eduardo does not say anything this time. He just shakes his head no.
“Then go take it now, Eduardo,” Miss Mancini says and Eduardo gets up and goes to his room. Miss Mancini has learned how to get her way by being nice, and I wish Mr. Grayson would learn that too. Or I wish I did not have a placid personality, then I would do the thing I would like to do. I would tell Miss Mancini what Mr. Grayson is like when she is not around.
When I was a child and lived in a real house, not this Home, I liked to say things over and over again, too. One time I heard this lady on TV say “for your information” and I thought that was a fun thing to say, so I started saying it a lot. I did not say it over and over again like Eduardo, though. I only said it when it made sense. If Mommy asked me what kind of cereal I wanted I would say, “For your information, I want corn flakes.” Or if Mommy asked me if I knew where Daddy was, I would say “For your information, he is in the living room, reading the paper.” I did not just say it any old time, over and over again, looking at the ceiling, I only said it when I wanted to tell someone something. But one time when I said it, my daddy exploded. He used his explosive personality.
“Enough!” he said, and then he banged his hand on the table, really hard, hard enough to make the dishes shake.
My mommy put her hand over one of his.
“Charles,” she said in her placid voice, “remember what Dr. Bill said.”
Daddy hit the table again, three times, really hard.
“I don’t give a flying what Dr. Bill says!” Only he said another word after “flying”, one my mommy did not like him to say. “I’ve just about had enough of this!”
“Charles,” my mommy said, still quiet, but not quite as calm, “we have to remember she can’t help it. Dr. Bill said...”
Daddy hit the table again, this time with both hands. He was really exploding. “I am so sick of hearing what Dr. Bill says, of seeing Dr. Bill, of obeying Dr. Bill’s every little word!”
Daddy stopped hitting the table, but he was still in his explosive personality, and little drops of spit were coming from his mouth. I was scared, but suddenly I understood. I did not have to do my Deep Thinking to understand, it just came to me, like in that flash I have heard people talk about. Daddy did not like Dr. Bill.
I did not understand how someone could not like Dr. Bill. I loved Dr. Bill. He talked to me like I was a real person and never looked at me funny, no matter what I did. And Mommy liked Dr. Bill. She liked him a lot, I could tell. She was always touching his arm or hugging him goodbye or something. I liked Dr. Bill and Mommy liked Dr. Bill, but at that moment, when the spit was coming out of his mouth, I realized that Daddy did not like Dr. Bill at all.
While I was thinking these thoughts and making this understanding, Mommy and Daddy were having one of their big fights. This fight made me even sadder than the other fights because it was about Dr. Bill.
“Who invites a child’s doctor to her birthday party?” Daddy had stood up while I was thinking and now he was waving his arms around real big, like he was going to fly away, he was so mad. Mommy was still in her chair and she was looking up at him. I could tell she was scared but she was still talking to him placid.
“Charles, she has no other friends,” Mommy started to say but Daddy would not let her finish. He was still standing, but he reached down to bang the table again.
“He’s her doctor, Rita, her doctor, not her friend. He does not belong in our home. My God, I didn’t think the man would ever leave.”
“They were playing with her new dolls, Charles. She has no one else to do that with. You should be happy he cares so much about her.”
“What kind of man plays with dolls, anyway?” my daddy said. He said this quieter, but I could tell he was still mad. Then his mouth got a funny line to it and he said something about Dr. Bill playing with real dolls, dolls forty years younger than him. Does he mean baby dolls? I thought. I was trying to understand, but there was so much noise that I could not figure it all out. Mommy glanced at me, then at Daddy and said something about little pitchers and the whole thing was so confusing that I just left my food on the plate and went to my room. Mommy and Daddy fought a long time that night about Dr. Bill. I could hear them yelling until I fell asleep.
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Laura, Toucan Editrice
Enjoy, and Viva La Toucan
Laura, Toucan Editrice