An Excerpt from Lost in Space by Ben Tanzer (Curbside Splendor)


Curbside Splendor
200 pgs | $14.95

I Need

I need sleep, long and deep and full of dreams about love, sex, pizza, Patrick Ewing, and Caddyshack. In these dreams I will be so happy, smart, funny, and full of esprit de corps that interns will float by my office in low-cut blouses begging to hear my innermost thoughts on Game of Thrones. I will not worry about bills or love handles, and I will not think about my children, not for even one moment, yo. If they happen to make an appearance they will say “excuse me,” “yes,” and “please,” eat over the ta­ble using actual utensils, and not constantly bang their heads or mysteriously find their hands around the necks of one another.

Most importantly, they will go to bed when it’s bed­time, after we’ve read together and nuzzled, and said our goodnights. They will just go to sleep, and if for some inexplicable reason they do not, they will still stay in bed. They won’t wander around the house like extras from The Walking Dead in various states of duress, mumbling about how they cannot fall asleep, or how they heard something, and how I must have heard it too, “you heard it, right?” before asking me, “so could you just lie with me for a little bit?” Nor will they come to my side of the bed during the middle of the night after I’ve already been asleep for hours, and loom over me, barely breathing, and ask, “I cannot sleep and what do you think about that?” I think I need sleep, motherfucker. Long and deep and full of dreams about Patrick Ewing, Caddyshack, and interns in low-cut blouses.

I also need to be able to control the weather. That’s huge. My boys, well, my sons Myles, age eleven, and Noah, age eight, that is, not my testicles, don’t like the wind. Rain is okay, if lacking in wind, and clearly identi­fied by the Weather Channel as anything not related and/or somehow connected to a monsoon, typhoon, tsunami, cyclone, tornado, sharknado, hurricane, tropical storm, or twister. Also, there cannot be any lightning, because that will not fly. Snow is always fine, even a blizzard, though not a blizzard that is especially windy, that’s not cool. Neither can said snow be mixed with lightning, so no thundersnow sadly, or that weird thing when the skies turn green.

I suppose what I really need to be able to do is con­trol the wind. And what I really need to become is the X-Men character Storm. You might know her as the su­perhero portrayed by Halle Berry in the movies. And yes, I need Halle Berry as well, though merely because she can provide me with pointers. Wind means lack of control, chaos, and instability, none of which the boys are totally able to roll with. But when you live in Chicago, you can’t easily leave the house, or spend much time outside at all. So, I really need these powers, and Halle Berry, and if someone could give them to me, I can also see how they would come in handy at those times when we are flying and we get stuck on a tarmac for weather-related reasons and are forced to consume all of the snacks, read all of the books, play with all of the toys, and watch all of the videos before we even take-off. Frankly, that sucks and I definitely don’t need that.

I do need to learn how to say, “Are you okay?” more often. I learned this in family therapy. Apparently, when a child of mine and I are in the midst of what is otherwise a minor misunderstanding about what constitutes picking up one’s toys, doing homework, taking a shower, brushing one’s teeth, turning off the television, clearing the table, moving the laundry, talking respectfully, and using “I” phrases, and said child inadvertently trips over a toy or pile of laundry, slips in the bathroom, bumps into a closet door, bangs their head on a doorknob, cuts their finger, toe, elbow, knee, or ear, gets a headache, stomachache, or spontaneously combusts, my tendency is not to respond with, “Are you okay?” but something less empathic, and possibly in a voice not deemed suf­ficiently low, which I am told is not cool, and something I really need to do, which I will, promise.

Further, I need to be less fearful. I do not worry that my children will be kind and decent people at some still-to-be-determined point in their development, or that I can’t be a father to boys as some of my friends have expressed to me because their fathers were not the role models they needed. But that’s because these are rational fears, and I apparently can manage fears that fall into that category. It’s the irrational fears that I need help with. And what are those fears? I’m glad you asked. In no particular order they are: childhood Leu­kemia; falling porches at crowded parties; stampedes in night clubs; gun violence, or any violence really, but especially gun violence; abductions: human, alien, or otherwise; plane crashes; drowning; broken necks; be­ing run over by drunk drivers, or people texting, or any types of car accidents; plummeting from hotel or high-rise apartment decks; falling off of a cruise ship; sexual abuse, or any abuse frankly; brain damage; HIV/AIDS; drug overdoses; alcoholism; anorexia; bulimia; Obses­sive-Compulsive Disorder; and cutting. All of which I need to chill the fuck out about. I know. But I can’t.

Which might mean I need a vacation. Well, I do need a vacation, but let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean going to Michigan and renting a cottage with my wife and chil­dren, which I love doing, I do, or a hotel room in Madi­son or Milwaukee, Thanksgiving trips to Philadelphia, or Bar Mitzvahs on Long Island. It also doesn’t mean going anywhere at all, if our children are with us, cool or otherwise, be that Thailand, Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, or Mexico. And this is not to say that I have deserted my dreams of hiking rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon, walking out to Machu Picchu at sunrise, or triumphant­ly climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with them, because I need to do all of that. Just as I need to see Barcelona, Rome, and Paris again, but with them, and through their eyes. But a vacation with them is not a vacation. I’m not at work, which is beautiful, and we’re out of the apart­ment, which is also beautiful, but we’re still together, which means children will be fighting, not sleeping, and there will be arguments. There will also be joy, a lot of it, but I will be on edge regardless, and what I need is for my wife Debbie and I to be somewhere where we are not putting children to bed, figuring out what children can eat, what they will find entertaining, or awaiting small bodies to loom over me at night like expectant vultures. I just need to sleep and run and read and Deb­bie sans children. I need it. Okay? Cool.

Finally, I also think I may need more patience, true patience, Zen, and serenity, so when one, or both, chil­dren says “I hate you” or “You suck;” or when they pee on the floor, spill drinks, don’t check their homework, fight over who has to shower first, fail to use soap or sham­poo; when they get out of bed, yet again, waking me from dreams about interns, Caddyshack, and Patrick Ewing; don’t care that I am sick, had a bad day at work, got a bad book review, strained my back running, got into a fight with some asshole who cut the line at Jewel; I need to learn how to smile benevolently and think that this will pass. It is part of the journey, the journey is a long one, and the anger that has hold of me is useless, wasted energy, and then all of the bad feelings will dissipate as I find the needed grounding in my surroundings. I em­brace that this is but one phase in the life I have created, and that regardless of what happens now or in five min­utes, the Dalai Lama promised me during a dream last night, that when I am on my deathbed and I die, I will receive total consciousness, which is nice, because I need that too.


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