Friday, June 4, 2010

96.) Menial Tasks

Soundtrack Song - Silversun Pickups, Lazy Eye

I squirted a huge dollop of shampoo into my palm, creating way too many suds for the length of my hair. Working the shampoo in, I let the hot water beat against my back and massage my tired muscles. It wasn’t until around noon that I finally rolled out of bed. I was still feeling exhausted, and tense, too.

This trip had started to take a downturn, and I couldn’t help but think that it was entirely our fault. Sure, we didn’t mean for it to happen, but we had placed so much emphasis on this trip going perfectly that when our night started going south, everything kind of circled the drain and went with it. With so much anxiety and pressure, it’s no wonder our fun cracked. Nothing can ever live up to all those expectations. At first, I had been so excited to be out here with him that I didn’t realize just how much pressure we were putting on ourselves.

Which is why I think this morning happened. Kris had been way too concerned about making sure I was happy—and usually the way to make me happy is to let me sleep for about nine or ten hours a night. He knew that, which was why he was going to let me sleep. Either that or he wanted to sneak out in case we found something else to argue about... little did he know how that would backfire in his face. With all this stress to manage, he had tried to tiptoe around me, and then I caved under the pressure and got snappy with him. I was angry, but I didn’t want to yell at him like that, because yelling would get us nowhere. We were open and honest enough that I didn’t need to raise my voice to get him to listen to me.

Should he have known it was a big deal to me and just have woken me up? Yes. And I think somewhere inside of him, he did know that. But he was too overly concerned about doing the right thing that he forgot what the right thing for me really was. Kris is a very sensitive guy: a characteristic developed from seeing how his mother lived and dealt with having to leave the man who she deeply loved, but who just so happened to also be abusive and alcoholic. Kris learned how to be a good, sweet man because he witnessed for himself what not to do and how not to act.

All this stress was going to ruin my vacation. Being with Kris was what would make this trip perfect, not what we did. Seeing him, touching him, and merely us spending time with each other doing anything together was the best part, and I forgot that along the way. Instead, I wanted every moment to be incredible, infinitely better than the last—and the visit had started out with all that potential. Friday at the Blakes’ was fun, and then I went to his practice and game on Saturday. On Monday, we went to Lick Observatory and had such an awesome time. All that was going to be hard to top on Tuesday, and well, Tuesday didn’t turn out well for us. We’d done everything possible to make sure we’d have a good time, and it completely backfired when some no-name, unknown, drunk patron interfered.

With every passing day, the time that I had left with Kris dwindled. I was leaving on Sunday. We had yet to talk about it; if we didn’t talk about it, then we could pretend that it wasn’t going to happen. But that was all a farce. It was happening Sunday whether we liked it or not, unless we found a way to pause time. We were going to have to be separated again.

And as the hours of my spring break ticked away into the past, the pressure and tension compiled and built up. Kris and I could ignore it all we wanted now, but come Sunday... we would have to face it head on. In the meantime, though, I had two days to myself to get my head back on straight, so we could make the absolute most of our remaining two days together—in a realistic, imperfect way that would somehow be perfect despite its own flaws.

We had grown so much since we met at the beginning of his season, but we were still the same. It was an oxymoron, or maybe a conundrum, or maybe it was some other type of contradiction with a special name; either way, it was complicated. But we had lost sight of how we got to this point: all the work and love and growing pains we experienced as we revealed our secrets, shared our pasts, and learned about how we had become the people we were. We needed to simplify.

I made sure to rinse away all the suds, stepped out of the shower, and quickly wrapped my hair up in a towel before I grabbed another and began to dry off. Another plus about staying in a hotel: fresh towels.

As I headed into the main room, though, all the minuses about living in a hotel were blatantly apparent. The space wasn’t yours. The decorations were often tacky, or muted and impersonal at best. The walls in this place were tan, and there was a print of a painting of some desert on the wall, and a fake dead plant in the corner. The chair was upholstered in a brown that really didn’t match the color scheme, and the mattress definitely wasn’t as comfortable as what Kris had in our apartment back in Pittsburgh. Then of course, no kitchen.

Not to mention the general lack of convenience. Everything seemed to be infinitely more difficult out here. Harder to get around, not being able to fix your own meal, nowhere to do your laundry, you never really felt at ease like you did in a place that was all yours.... There were probably other, fancier hotels where he could get a kitchenette and better—more—amenities, but I think that Kris kind of liked the discomfort that the Alameda provided. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Kris had accepted that San José was his new home yet. I suppose he had good reason to be tentative about it, because there was still the possibility that he could get an offer from another team this summer and he’d have to start all over again somewhere else.

He certainly didn’t treat this place like it was his home. He had only brought clothes with him and therefore had no personal effects here. The most personal thing he had here was Brewster, my stuffed dog that I tucked away inside one of his suitcases when he came out here after his trade. He was perched on the nightstand by the lamp as a little reminder of me.

After I had gotten Brewster, I couldn’t sleep without him. James had won him at Kennywood when he knocked over a trio of fake milk bottles, and Brewster was my guard dog when I wasn’t allowed to have a real, live pet. That small stuffed animal was something that meant a lot to me, and I wanted Kris to have an important “something” to make him feel less lonely while he was out here, all alone, in a weird, new city. It was fitting to stow him away in Kris’s bag and send him along to keep him company until we were back together again, permanently.

But that was the only really “personal” thing he had out here with him. Even back at our apartment, before it was ours and it was just his, he didn’t have the individual, special touches that most homes had. No pictures, posters, trophies. But at least in Pittsburgh he had been surrounded by his own possessions: there was his bed, his TV, his couch, his dresser, his coffee table. Nothing here was his—except for all the clothes strewn about.

Kris was literally living out of his suitcases. His suits were hanging up in the closet because they needed to be kept nice between dry cleanings, but the rest of his clothes were thrown around without any sense of order. The dresser wasn’t all that big, but he didn’t even put some of his things away, and three weeks’ worth of dirty laundry piled in the corner.

I wanted to make this his home, even though I knew that the hotel wouldn’t be his permanent residence; he’d get an apartment next season, once he knew for sure that he’d be playing here. He had all summer to deal with those kinds of details and move his stuff out of our apartment and into our new one, wherever it may be. But even if the Sharks choked again, he’d be out here into early May—for another two months, at least, or more if they kept going further into additional rounds. The thought of him out here, stuck in this cold, impersonal room, was disturbing to me.

So I was going to make this his temporary home but a home nonetheless, until he came back to spend the summer with me in Pittsburgh as I took summer courses. That’s what I was going to do while he was gone for the next two days, and he would be surprised and happy upon his return. I was gonna do something nice for him, something to make his continued stay out here a little easier on him. He was so busy, and right now I was not—so I could help him out with the menial tasks: like his laundry. It was a little domesticated of me, but it would totally be worth it to do something like this for him.

That was the first step of my plan: I was going to wash his clothes, and I would fold and put them away neatly like they would be if he had an apartment or his own place of which he was proud. He’d have a nice, tidy room, just like back in Pittsburgh. What didn’t fit could go into the suitcases, but using the dresser would be a good step in the right direction to making this feel right for him.

I knew he didn’t want this place to feel like home because he was still a little bit in denial about the whole thing, but I had imagined what next season would be like with the both of us out here in California—and I wanted that. I wanted that so bad. So I wanted him to be comfortable out here, because maybe, hopefully, San José would be our collective home soon enough. As long as he got re-signed, that is.

Dumping out and emptying his big suitcase on wheels, I stuffed it full of all his dirty clothes: jeans, shorts, socks, boxers, shirts, tank tops, a hoodie or two, and even a few of my things as well. I stuffed the hotel room key into my pocket as well as the cash he left behind—no way was I leaving that behind for the maid to find. The hotel didn’t have a laundry facility, so I was going to lug this bag down to reception and ask where the nearest laundry mat was. So maybe it wasn’t an incredibly fun way to spend my spring break, but this was for Kris... and that’s what made it worth it.

I was about to leave when my cell rang, so I let go of the handle on the bag and sat on the bed. The number was not one programmed into my phone; nor was it one I recognized. I only gave my number out to people I trusted, so I answered without knowing who it was. “Hello?”

The voice echoing through the line was female. “Hi. Is this Jo?”

“Uh, yeah,” I replied, now feeling curious. “Who’s this?”

“It’s Brandy,” she said. I waited for her to say what she wanted or explain why she called without greeting her. She added, sounding tentative, “You know, Rob’s wife?”

I chuckled. “Yeah, Brandy, hi, I know who you are. Uh, what’s up?”

“Samantha wanted to talk to you. Can you hold on for a—”

Brandy was cut off by Samantha as she spoke over the line, obviously in on our talk from a second phone in their house. “Don’t worry, I’m here.”

“Hey, Samantha—”

“You can hang up now, Aunt Brandy,” she said, making her suggestion sound like a command. Brandy sighed, but I heard a click as she ended the call on her phone, while Samantha stayed on the line. “Oh my God, I’m not even allowed to use the phone without someone’s permission.”

I took a deep breath, trying to hide the sound from her so she wouldn’t misconstrue it as a sigh of frustration. I was feeling incredibly unprepared for this. Even though I had given her my phone number and had encouraged her call even she needed someone to talk to, I had been so caught up with Kris that I had honestly forgotten all about doing that and Samantha and her situation. I tried to be rational; I quickly deduced that Rob and Brandy didn’t want her to call her friends at home in Canada and get some information about her boyfriend from people who could provide it.

“Like, it’s a phone call. I said I wanted to call you, and she insisted on dialing the number herself. She didn’t even trust me to call who I said I was going to call!”

“Well, Sam, have you tried calling back home before? Does she have a reason to think you’d do something like that?”

For a few moments, she was silent on the line. When she spoke again, she completely changed the subject—probably because she had done that before, but she didn’t want to admit to it. “I’ve tried talking to Aunt Brandy and Uncle Rob about getting them to say something to my mom about going back home. But they won’t listen to me. They tell me I’m too young to know what’s good for myself, and they say that it’s the hormones making me so emotional. But it’s not my hormones. I know how I feel, and I know what I want for myself.”

“They’re not just going to change their minds overnight. They need convincing, Samantha. They need you to convince them that you can handle this. That takes time.”

“You said I should talk to them.” Her tone sounded accusatory, like she had taken my advice and it didn’t work—and now she was mad at me because of it. “You said to cut them some slack and that they would come around and say something to my mom. That hasn’t happened at all.”

Now I did sigh, and I didn’t try to disguise it as anything other than what it was. “It’s not gonna happen that fast. I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. But trust and respect is something that’s earned with time.”

“But I just wanna go back home,” she whined, and I could practically hear the tears that were welling up in her eyes. I, too, couldn’t help but wonder if age and/or hormones were a factor in her reaction; it sounded rude, like I wasn’t considering her feelings, but I didn’t know if they were an exaggeration of her honest emotions. “No, I don’t even care about going home. I just wanna be closer to Bryan. He’s the only person who understands me. We clicked when we met in Simcoe, and he made me feel loved and special. My mom never cared about me with the kind of heart that Bryan did. He accepted me, and that was the only time that ever felt that sense of belonging. No one else cares about me like the way that he does.”

“Really?” I asked, full of disbelief. “I know that you love him, Samantha, but your mom loves you. So does Rob and Brady—they took you in, didn’t they? That counts for something.”

“Pssh, they didn’t do this for me. Mom wanted to send me away, and if they didn’t take me, then I probably woulda been sent to a shelter for unwed mothers or something. She’s so fucking backward, my mom. All she cared about was her reputation, and Aunt Brandy just took pity on me. That’s why I’m here.”

I was honest with her. “I think that’s a lie. Do you think it’s easy for them to house you? You make life difficult for them, and they worry about you, I can tell. They’re trying to help you. You have a family—even if it’s an extended family—that cares about you, so don’t you dare take it for granted,” I scolded, feeling jealous that she had relatives like I didn’t to help her through her crisis. I had none of that. I had Tubby back then, and now I was lucky enough to have Kris, too.

“They don’t care, they won’t listen,” she emphasized. Apparently, the inability to listen to what another person was saying was a trait that ran through her family, because she hadn’t heard anything I had said to her either. “Maybe you can talk to Aunt Brandy, Jo. She’ll listen to you. She let me call you, so she trusts you.... Please.”

That put me in a tough position. I wanted to be able to help Samantha, but I didn’t think that inserting myself into this situation was going to help anyone. This was a family thing, and I was not family; I was just the girlfriend of one of her uncle’s teammates. Rob had made it perfectly clear that he didn’t want to mix his professional and personal life together—but inviting me back to his house with him last Saturday to help coax her out of the bathroom had done just that. I was someone he knew through a professional relationship, and now I knew about the personal predicament of his family. This could get messy.

But on the other hand, I was someone that Samantha had obviously bonded with. She probably felt like I was one of the very few people on this planet that she could talk to without being judged, and I didn’t want to ruin that for her or take that away from her. So I tried to find a way to duck out without disrupting the dynamic between us. “You overestimate the esteem that your aunt and uncle have of me. They won’t listen to me. This is up to you, Samantha. You’ve gotta prove you’re going to be smart and level-headed by acting that way.”

“But I can’t... God, I can’t even be around Aunt Brandy right now. She’s driving me nuts. I can’t leave, I can’t call anyone, I can’t use the computer, I can’t do anything. I’m stuck in this damn house!”

“Well, at least it’s a pretty nice house to be stuck in,” I thought aloud, remembering the giant TV in the living room, the fridge full of food, and the pool and a hot tub out back. I’d switch places with her if it meant I could get out of the Alameda.

“Not when Aunt Brandy is hovering over me like a frickin’ helicopter.” She paused on the line. Her next two words came out of left field, and I almost didn’t trust my ears to tell my brain what I had heard. “Come over.”

“Pardon me?”

“Come. Over,” she repeated slowly, like I was retarded and had trouble understanding the English language. I had heard her correctly the first time around, but it had really caught me off guard. I guess Samantha had a tendency to do that to me. “Aunt Brandy likes you, she’ll totally let you come over.”

“Well, uh, that’s nice of you to invite me,” I eked out, trying to think of something. “But I have some wash that I need to get done, and I was seriously just about to leave for the laundry mat.”

“No, it’s cool, you can do it here. I’m asking right now. Aunt Brandy! Hey, Aunt Brandy!” I had to pull the phone away from my ear as she called out to another room of the house. I could clearly hear as Samantha posed the question to Brandy, but her aunt’s response was muffled and I couldn’t make it out. She was a bossy girl, hellbent on getting what she wanted. “But why not?”

Brandy must have been walking toward her, because suddenly I could make out her words. “You can’t just demand that people do your bidding. School will be out in less than two hours, I have to cook dinner—and you can’t just offer up our house for someone to come over and do their laundry! What if I were washing clothes?”

“Are you?” Samantha asked back quickly.

“Well, no, but—”

“Then what’s the big deal? Come on, Aunt Brandy! Please! I don’t get to go anywhere and do anything, like, ever, because I’m tethered to this house like a dog on a leash. It’s so monotonous, please, just let her come over so I don’t have to sit around and stare at the ceiling in the guest room. I’m begging you. I’ll do anything.”

“Give me the phone,” Brandy ordered, and I could hear rustling sounds as the receiver was passed from hand to hand. “Jo?”

I immediately apologized. “I’m sorry about that, Brandy, I didn’t ask—”

“No, it’s okay, I know. It’s all right with me if you wanted to stop by, I mean, it’s not an issue, but if you have other plans, then don’t feel like you have to oblige her.”

“I really didn’t have plans at all,” I sighed. “The team’s away, so Kris is gone, so I was just going to head out to the laundry mat. I don’t want to impose on you at all.”

“No imposition,” she replied, and I could tell she was smiling. We were being so polite. “I know I told Kris, and this goes for you, too, Jo: anything you guys need, we’ll do what we can to help you out. Bring your laundry, and you can even stay for dinner. This team is like a family. A dysfunctional one, maybe, but aren’t all families?”

I hoped that Samantha didn’t hear that. “Wow, thanks, Brandy. That sounds really great. I just need your address, and then I’ll catch a cab.”

“A cab? Oh, I forgot. No transportation. You’re at the hotel by the arena, right?” I nodded until I realized she couldn’t see me, and then I answered in the affirmative. “We’ll come and get you. Samantha and I will be there in about fifteen minutes.”

I could hear her niece in the background. “Yes! Great! Oh my God, I’m this excited to get to go for a car ride? I really am like a dog!”

Brandy sighed, no doubt rolling her eyes. “This is really nice of you, Brand, thanks. I’m in room number nine, but I’ll be waiting outside.”

We hung up, and as I waited for them to show up, my phone beeped with a text from Kris: Boarding plane. Talk 2 u from Van. I luv u. X

The simple message put a big smile on my face. I sent something as equally sappy back to him before I stood outside and waited for Brandy’s big, black Escalade to pull up to the Alameda. I recognized it quickly, since it was the same vehicle Kris and I had taken up to Mt Hamilton to the observatory. When it stopped in front of me, I opened up the backseat door and slid the big suitcase in carefully so as not to mar the seat, and then I hopped in. “Hey.”

“Hi,” Samantha chirped back from the front passenger seat. She turned around and looked at me, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I were really that interesting to her—or if I were just someone to distract her or talk to. “Why aren’t you wearing green?” she asked happily, talking with me freely.

“Umm, my shoes are green,” I mused, pulling off a flip flop and showing her. “Why?”

“It’s Saint Patrick’s Day! Duh, don’t you own a calendar?” she giggled, not sounding rude even though her choice of words was harsh.

“Oh, I didn’t realize,” I replied.

“We’re having corned beef and cabbage for dinner,” Brandy said. “I hope that’s okay with you. I mean, I’ll probably be making hot dogs or something because Cody probably won’t eat anything that isn’t hot dogs, pizza, or cheeseburgers.”

“Anything is fine, I’m not too picky.” Even though this wasn’t how I imagined today would pan out, I didn’t mind this change of events. It was a hell of a lot better than sitting around and hoping Jamie would want to hang out with me at the end of her workday.

When we got back to their house, Brandy showed me to their laundry room behind the kitchen. I thanked her and opened Kris’s suitcase, sorting through the clothes and dividing them into colors. Samantha followed me and watched as I went about my task, throwing Kris’s undershirts, boxers, and socks into the washing machine as it filled with water.

She went on about anything and everything—nothing weighty or monumental. It was annoying until I reminded myself that she had been pulled out of her familiar atmosphere in Simcoe. What she needed now was a friend; even though I was older than her, I could be an ear to listen to her ramble on about random whatever, even if she was insulting Kris’s favorite shirt.


  1. Wow, I really liked this post. Something about the domestic routine and the cheerless hotel room gave me the idea that Jo was being really considerate and helpful and nice, by doing the little things that would ease his life. I have a personal thing about doing laundry when I travel, it makes every foreign country more familiar, and I can see Jo doing that here, creating a routine for herself.

    "we had placed so much emphasis on this trip going perfectly that when our night started going south, everything kind of circled the drain and went with it." So true to life, sometimes our expectations overwhelm the actual events. Even when the events are good, we may not value them enough. Now that she's noticed this, it will take the pressure off the rest of the week.

    I like the idea of the penance that Kris is doing by living in a crappy motel, maybe the idea that if he's not happy and settled, things will change. But Jo is determined to make a little home for him, and I can hardly wait to see what she does, other than the laundry.

    And now Samantha calls, well she is self-centered and a bit irritating, but she completely redeems herself with this line:
    “Yes! Great! Oh my God, I’m this excited to get to go for a car ride? I really am like a dog!” Perhaps a sense of humour lies under her sullen adolescent manner?

    I like the low key, but revealing tone of this post. Great job Jay!

  2. Wow, I totally forgot all about Samantha! haha
    I was kind of surprised when she called, I know Jo gave her, her number to call and all, but I didn't think she would actually use it!!
    I'm curious to see how their evening will go, I'm assuming because the boys are gone, Brandy and Jo will probably have a chance to bond as much as Jo and Sam will? We'll see : )

    I think it's adorable that Jo wants to get the room to feel more like a home to Kris. I'm still amused that he didn't move out of that dinky hotel yet! haha

    Can't wait for the next one! : )

  3. I love that Jo figured the issue much pressure in so little time is not a good thing. I love, too, that she is going to make his room more homey, leave pieces of her behing for him...great update, and Sam/Brandy might be just what Jo needs while Kris is gone, besides no cost for the laundry, lol!

    Fabulous, as always, doll!

  4. Oooh smack that little brat's face! She needs to learn how to treat her "friends" becuase she obviously has NO CLUE!

    Excellent chapter Jay... But then again you know I love them all.

  5. Awa I love that Jo's gonna take the time to make the hotel more domestic for Kris. I really hope he appreciates the gesture(:

    Nice little twist bringing Samantha up again. I feel bad that she's putting all of this pressure on Jo, but I'm glad that Jo is being so supportive of everything. I'm interested to see how the rest of the day goes.

    Another lovely update, Jay(:

  6. Okay... what does Samantha have of her sleeve? Is she actually just bored out of her skull, which would be understandable, or is there something else going on here?

    Jo wanting to make Kris' room homier is a sweet gesture. Know what else is a sweet gesture? TALKING TO HIM ABOUT WHAT IS GOINGTO HAPPEN WHEN YOU LEAVE AND NOT JUST TRYING TO TELL HIM BY DOING HIS LAUNDRY.

    Ahem, sorry, sometimes I just can't control myself when we talk about these two. Obviously this conversation that needs to be had is eating away at Jo, understandably so. And, I am really anxious for them to talk about it, even if they don't solve anything. It's really good for Jo to be able to put two and two together and realize how much pressure they had put on their vacation, hopefully now that at least one of them knows that they can take the opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves for the end of their trip - which is coming to a close way sooner than I'd like :P - and they can have some hot good-bye sex and you know, TALK.

    Excellent, Jay. :)