Life is full of different angles and points of view. Some we see so often that we take them for granted, forgetting that once we found them unique or new. Others we may never see, and some we wish we hadn’t.
Such was the scene in the supermarket. I was on all fours in the middle of the aisle and my senses were heightened. Time stood still but for the constant drip that like silent raindrops fell. Slowly they would hit the linoleum and slowly I would wipe the spill, even as it ricocheted back against itself, a tear turned inside out.
My vision was a blur of gum stuck under shelving and product covered in dust. The only movement a beacon of clarity. My son, running, fleeing the scene.
“Get another roll of paper towels,” I told him for the second time. My voice was stoic. My body was shaking.
The paper towels were at the end of the aisle. They were printed in shades of Halloween and one roll had already been placed in our cart. It was a treat, if paper towels can be labeled as such. The boys love all things Halloween and are just as happy with a roll of paper towels that cost a dollar as they are with a door decoration that cost twenty. They thank me when I nod, granting them the permission to embrace the season. It is not a dollar wasted.
So it was that the roll of paper towels that had just moments ago brought great joy was now open and wadded into a large ball in my fist. So it was that my oldest boy returned with another roll, handed it to me, and then proceeded to wander the walls of candy and candles shaped like bats, cats, and spider webs. He was at ease. He was already gone.
I glanced up towards my younger son who was perched above me in the shopping cart. He too was enthralled with the festival of the autumn aisle. He never looked down as he studied the bounty, his mouth agape. He just sat there, strapped on a metal carriage with a plastic seat, and his eyes lit up, even as he continued to pee on me.
I hadn’t known what it was at first. It was just a drop of moisture upon my flip-flopped foot. I believe that I actually looked up to find the source before I thought to bend over my son and search the contents of the cart. By then it was a constant stream escaping the leg of his shorts, catching every crosshatch of metal basket on the way down, coating new dew upon the large pumpkin that rode beneath him and forming a lonely warm puddle in which I was the island. I was deserted.
I looked at my son. I looked in his eyes, and deep into his soul and the fear I found was my own. The shame reflected was mine. His face was blank, empty, the image beneath a mask of pressure that had finally been cast aside. His was a release long overdue, and neither time nor space had consequence. There was only relief above the pleas of his father, and endless rows of candy as far as the eye could see.