Sunday the boys and I went to the “River Run” playground. All the places have names now, so our circuit is usually River Run, Hippo (adjacent to about 91st Street), Spector (85th and Central Park West), and Diana Ross (CPW and 81st). Ours is just inside the entrance to Riverside Park at 83rd Street.
This is the same steep entrance that 5-year-old Teak decided recently to bomb on his Mini Micro scooter – two wheels in front and one in back – and I, reluctant to let him go but trying to coach him in vain, saw him whiz by me with an undaunted look and then wobble at the end, finally succumbing to the ultimate face plant. A woman going uphill while I was jogging down to check him out said, “It looked worse than it is.” Smiled at me like, Don’t worry, he’ll make it to graduation.
But Sunday, they played on the rocks, this rise of basalt/gneiss/schist? about twenty feet high outside the iron fence of River Run, for about half an hour. It was good to get out with them, because I needed to for my mental health. The boys each had plastic light sabers, two red and one blue. Carter’s extended like a stiletto with a flick of a plastic button, which will no doubt jam one day soon and render the saber unusable. A Jedi on the unemployment line.
A boy named Mason showed up and “borrowed” Teak’s light saber after Teak had let it sit too long near him on the ground. He swung it around like he was a 1940s Errol Flynn, truly sword-like, jumped up onto the top of the rock and had fights with Carter and Bennett. Teak looked somewhat stunned and helpless. I looked up and must have said something about giving it back, or gave him a knowing look, because he returned it.
The past ten days have been yet another depression, but this time I was almost able to look at it objectively. Like, step outside myself and view it as a commodity, a thing. In these depressions, I always try to find the trigger. And find what emotion the trigger triggers. Because the trigger is the mere event or circumstance that points to some weakness or inadequacy in my life that I can’t deal with. But instead of some controlled intellectual exercise, I slide into an emotional sinkhole. I am bombing the hill thinking it’s a great ride and all of a sudden my scooter ends up behind me and my front is exploring the concrete.
More and more I wonder if my bipolar disorder is a convenient excuse. I posed the question to the Lovely K (and first myself) this week – “What would I do if someone came to me today and told me I didn’t have bipolar…I’d have no more excuses!” I would suddenly have no reason for the slow mornings, the painful shyness or the terrors of loneliness.
Yet taking emotional stock is often tricky. I think aiming directly at an emotional object – fear, sadness, loneliness, etc. – always misses the mark. It’s like looking at something in the dark, and where the reflected or radiated light from the object hits the point on the retina where the optic nerve pierces it and where there are no photosensitive cells, on the back wall, opposite the pupil, the eye is blind. You miss the object. The only way to see it is to look to one side or the other. You catch a glance and see not its defined edges perhaps but maybe the representation of the whole. It is only hinted at, yes, but it’s there and you know it. It’s just that you can’t describe it in detail.
Lutrum showed up at one point. (That’s a boy in Carter’s class and not a medication, in case you were wondering.) So did Dylan, and Bennett was soon all in a snit because Carter was playing with the other boys, and he was getting short shrift. My guess is that Bennett was used to being sidekick and now he was the brunt of jokes between older kids. My mercy side pined for him. Pined for lost relationship and hurt feelings and crushed identity. None of which will last past the day. When he cries, he seems genuinely sad, unlike the angry cry of his younger brother or scared cry of his older one. Instead he is heart-broken. Like he’s just lost a puppy.
By the end of our playground time, Bennett’s face had black streaks under his eyes, like a football player’s worn off anti-glare grease, caused by the tears he had wiped away with his dirty hands. I found him sitting underneath the jungle gym, and he explained how Carter was playing with the other boys and kept running from him and wouldn’t let him catch up. He bent his face toward his knees, as he pulled them closer to his chest. He was sitting down, with me next to him, and his face crinkled into its crying shape. His eyes squinted shut, his mouth went out at the sides, and tears kind of popped out of the corners of his eyes the way they do.
In twenty years he will not remember that moment.
But I most likely will.
graphic: NYC Parks Dept.