Bob’s chewing his cud today.
I’m not sure what it actually is, but it won’t go away and he’s grinding it down as we go through The List. It doesn’t look like gum, but when I hazard a guess my bastard of a brain offers up some horrible concepts:
It’s a fingernail, it’s a bit of a fingernail and he’s munching on himself. No, even better it’s a stubborn booger. Hey, you know, he might be sucking leftovers from his teeth for a midmorning snack. It could be bits of the infants he consumes as part of his pact with the Devil for unnaturally long life.
Kicking off the day with a wave of nausea, Bob follows it with a nice oomph of rage. “We need to figure out this morning traffic thing,” he says, all angry-like and using that fatherly admonishing tone that just pisses me off because 1) He’s not my Dad and 2) He’s always wrong.
“Bob, they shut down the damned road I live on, it was only one lane.”
“Well couldn’t you have started earlier?”
“I didn’t know they were doing it, the roadblock was just there this morning. It’s not like the City of Los Angeles gives any warning before they do roadwork.”
He’s getting angry too, making that squinty face he likes to make when he’s trying to think of something offensive to say that he thinks is right and the rest of the world thinks is beyond stupid. I call it Mole-Face, because it’s similar to the rodent squint one witnesses as a mole breaches the earth. When I think on it, Bob would make a good mole. Everyone would be much happier with him living underground and he could dig around in dirt and muck and destroy decent people’s days by creating mole holes in which they can trip and snap their ankles. Everyone’s happy but the ankles.
“I just don’t see why YOU couldn’t have taken the SIDE ROADS.” He’s now emphasizing loudly on the phrase ‘side roads’ as if I haven’t lived in LA long enough to know that dipping into the neighborhood streets can sometimes turn a 5-hour commute into a 2-hour commute. Of course biking the three miles would leave you with a 15 minute commute.
“Bob, there aren’t any side roads, this is the side road going past my house and it is closed down.”
“No, you NEED to take the SIDE ROADS,” he’s starting the booming again, I’m starting to grind my teeth. It makes a horrific noise, but somehow that sounds better than unfiltered Bob. Kind of like trying to make the soundtrack of Jersey Shore better by adding in the loud ministrations of Dubstep…it’s not good in any way, but at least there’s less of the most offensive audio.
“THERE AREN’T ANY SIDE ROADS BOB!” Great, Ten-thirty and I’m already yelling. Ladies and gents, I think we have a record. “I pull right out on the road,” I say a little calmer, realizing that yelling a lot now will just make the rest of the day an angry mess, and I like to keep that vein on my forehead from pulsing…one day that sucker’s gonna pop and I don’t plan to go out like that: dead on Bob’s dandruff-dusted couch, the stink of him lingering in my clothes…death by frustration. I think if I have one goal left after the pure career atrophy I’m currently undergoing, it’s to outlive Bob. Small, attainable goal. I can do this.
“Then leave earlier,” Bob says, forgetting that I am not clairvoyant, that I couldn’t predict Los Angeles was going to make the astoundingly brilliant decision to minimize a roadway on the tail-end of rush hour that happens to feed directly into Santa Monica Community College. If I had, I would have called in sick with food poisoning for the second time this month, ninth time this year.
Bob must think I sit around the house eating rancid meat.
There’s obviously no battle to be won here. The ground is razed, salted and nuclear. There are mutated baby birds heaving last breaths out of their irradiated lungs. The usual survivors of a fallout, the roaches, have even succumbed and litter the landscape of this conversation with their little brown disgustingly roachy bodies. I must let this go.
“There was nothing I could do, BOB!” Why do I poke the bear? Do I just like getting bitten, or am I in some secretly suicidal way hoping to be consumed piece by piece via enraged charge and subsequent mauling? Am I a masochist of the worst kind in that I incite Bob each and every time he gets a reaction out of me?
I’m reminded of a time when my brother and I were fighting as kids. It’s amazing I remember a specific time, because we spent our childhood from his birth until our mutual graduation (me 18, him 15–that was also a fight) as uncontrollable harpy hellbeasts bent in battle until someone challenged us. Then it was kind of over for them.
We had such a name for ourselves that there wasn’t a single babysitter in Charlotte, North Carolina who would come to our house. Once we treated a sitter so badly that she ran screaming down our driveway as our parents returned from their date night. Into the night she fled, wailing, “El Diablo! El Diablo!” Dad was supposed to drive her to the bus stop three miles down the road, but I guess getting away from our satanic presences was more important than a long trek through the dark tree-line roads of the semi-rural Charlotte suburbs.
Dad’s theory that non-English speaking sitters would fare better was shattered that evening.
Back to this particular fight. It was occurring in a therapists’ office because my parents had given up and decided that maybe family therapy would end the WWIII going on in their household. My brother and I had taken the short time in which my parents had their private conversation with the therapist to demolish the waiting room. After lobbing the magazines at one another across the carpeted strand of battleground, we had moved on to the couch throw pillows and were currently shifting the couches themselves in order to make substantial barriers against each others business card assault.
Likely horrified, the therapist sat us down and asked us WHY? Why do we fight? What reason do we have for the endless Battle of the Siblings?
We knew. Each of us gave half of the answer, as if it needed no explanation. It should have been a given.
“Because we’re bored,” my brother said, as matter-of-factly as if he was ordering a cheese sandwich.
“And because it’s fun,” I finished, probably adding the kind of Cheshire grin one expects to see on goblins, or hellspawn, or children who destroy and squabble and run off perfectly decent middle aged Mexican babysitters.
And that’s the root of it. I poke the bear because it is somehow fun. Maybe because this job would be mind-numbingly boring without the occasional Richter spikes of a Bob-splosion. Maybe because pushing Bob to the limit is entertaining at least. Maybe because I need more material for the blog. Or maybe because I secretly want to get fired and return to the fun of unemployment.
I know it’s wrong, and that simply saying, “Sorry, Bob, I’ll be on time tomorrow,” would solve everything. It would tie the matter off with a nice neat bow. But there’s this constant urge, the devil inside me that just wants to reach out and poke that motherfucking bear.
So I do.
Worst of all, Bob in this case is absolutely right. I can leave earlier. In fact, I should. After all, he thinks my start time is 10 am. In actuality, it was 9:30 am, it just so happens I came in late enough so many times in a row that his addled mind decided to believe my workday started at 10.
I’m getting away with murder. I really should stop with the poke-age.