Joint Custody

January 4, 2009 at 6:23 am (Clairissa, Sweet sticky things)

Tying up the loose ends of a relationship can be messy, especially when it comes to sharing custody of children or pets. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum; from both parties bending over backwards to accommodate each other, to the kids/pets being used as pawns in a most diabolical game of chess.

I’ve been facing separation anxiety over losing Clairissa. While I’m not technically losing her, she’s moving to San Diego, so I can no longer hop a local bus and get my fix of hugs, laughter, grooming and bodacious ta-tas all in one stop. Fred Meyer advertises one-stop shopping, but not in those departments. Clairissa gets an A+ for having all those departments covered. (Except for the ta-tas, which are frequently uncovered.) But I digress.

As she prepares to go, she’s been cleaning house. Fixtures are being sold, favored items are being gifted. During the infamous week of my birthday, I gave Clairissa a dead frog.

Yesterday she gave him back.

Clairissa and I have joked about making beautiful babies together. (I say joked, but I think she knows I’d fill her full of babies in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.) I could see something happening between us; she takes off and returns five years later with a little tattooed Travis Barker lookalike sporting a fiery red mohawk, henna tattoos and clip-on piercings. While I think that would be so cool and beautiful, we both realize our skills regarding financial and parental responsibilities need more work before that happens.

We’ve been practicing, with Daddy the dog and Freddie the Frog.

Freddie the Frog has been well-documented, and has been living on the mantle of the Hot Box Salon since last May. I delivered him in a blur of tears and malt liquor, knowing that Clairissa would take care of him. After ten years the charm had worn off, and I knew she’d give him a good home. Clairissa is one of a very few women who understands, gets my bizarre taste in humor and decorating. When I offered her Freddie, she jumped at it. (Pun!) I couldn’t just throw him away, and abandoning him on a street corner would not have been an option. (While I’d love to watch people’s reactions, I know some jackass would come along and dump him out or break the bottle, then I’d have to beat his ass.) So I entrusted his care to Clairissa, on the condition that if she ever decided to give him up, I wanted him back.

Yesterday was my day to retain custody.

Since Saturday was my one day off in a two-week period, I had to make it count. I got up two hours early, conquered grocery shopping and laundry. As I finished up loose ends on the computer, I popped the last two happy pills in my stash from the bad back days. (Hello, God Morpheus…) As the warm tinglies washed over me, I listened to Peter Gabriel’s Kiss that Frog. It set the mood for my adventures perfectly. After a chat with my other little green friend, it was time to go.

I plugged in the soundtrack to the X-Files movie and hopped on the bus, listening to songs about One More Murder as I prepared to move a dead body. I could smell the dirt and decay, feel the dark rush of finality. I mused over Clairissa, and wondered who I would fixate on once she’s gone. My body (and headspace) were loose, bouncy. Far superior to the alcohol that fueled the last adventure of this nature.

Hot Box was boomin’, businesswise. Donna’s clients were outside, smoking underneath dryer caps. Clairissa was inside, hovering her coochie over a space heater. “Keeping it warm for me?” I asked.

“Of course!” She gave me the sweetest of greetings, and introduced me to a friend who’d stopped by. “He visits once in a while, just for the hell of it.”

“I understand completely.”

We joked as she buzzed my hair down to nothing, regaling her friend with tales of times gone by. We discussed cold showers, a subject I’d recently become much too acquainted with. Her friend talked of jumping in lakes. Clairissa looked at us both like we were crazy. “I’ve never, ever taken a cold shower on purpose. I blow-dry my underwear to get it warm in the morning!”

She massaged my scalp, trimmed my eyebrows. As my hour neared its end, her friend said goodbye.

“Sorry about that,” she apologized. “I don’t see him often, and won’t be seeing him much at all soon.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. I’m getting about five year’s worth of haircuts in the next three months, just so I can spend time with you.”

She brought Freddie the Frog down from the mantle and sat him on the counter, next to the phone and her appointment book. We’d sorta forgotten about him, and after the next client came in there was a sound like wind being sucked into a vortex.

“What the fuck is that?”

Clairissa told the two girls the story of Freddie the Frog, and they looked at us like we were stone-cold crazy.

Ya think?

The shop was filling up again, and I needed to accomplish a few more things before the end of the non-work day. Clairissa pulled out a white plastic bag, with “Have a Good Hair Day!” written on the outside. She put Freddie inside, wrapping him so he looked like a poorly-disguised can of beer. Perfect! If a bus driver inquired, I would show him my beverage.

And if he gave me any crap about pets? Hey, it’s in a container! It’ll be quiet, and I double-guarantee it won’t attack any Pomeranians. My final defense?

It’s a service animal. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

I followed Clairissa to the bathroom, the last bastion of privacy on this busy Saturday afternoon. We shared brief sweet kisses, great big hugs, and a quiet moment before I went on my way. As I played with her multi-pierced ear, she said, “I still want to go to our favorite steak place one more time. No girlfriends, no boyfriends, just you and me, okay? It’s our special place…”

I’m so much more than just okay with that.

I added, “I’m supposed to be getting a gift certificate to a fancy-schmancy seafood place, with instructions to take someone other than the person giving it to me. Do you like seafood? Wanna be my date?”

“I’d love to!” She’d never heard of the place, even though it’s been open for over a hundred years and is just around the corner from her favorite donut place. “I love crab…”

“Mmm… panty crickets…”

SLAP! on the shoulder. “Not that kind of crabs!”

The phone rang again. As she answered, I kissed her on the forehead and left quietly, carrying my frog like an open can of beer. I got looks on the bus, especially from three urban hillbillies who made snarky remarks. I gave them a look that said, “If I have to put this frog down, there’s gonna be trouble!” They got off the bus without incident. I mused that I should take my son out for dinner on the way home. Perhaps a bite at the food court of the Upscale Mall? The reaction to folks would be priceless, although mall security probably has some sort of ‘Dead Animal’ clause in their many rules of behavior. Maybe next time.

I had seven minutes between buses when transferring downtown, so I ran to the Nightclub store to use the bathroom. Pan was working. I put my umbrella and beverage on the closed side of the cash registers and told him, “Watch my frog!” I hustled to the back, and saw him picking up Freddie.

“Handle that carefully, please? It’s old…”

I quickly took care of business, hustling back out front. Pan was looking me with an expression of curious disgust, like he’d picked up a slug and just realized what it was. “Uh… wha…?”

“Tell ya later, gotta run!” I can’t wait to hear the gossip when I get back to work tomorrow.

And now Freddie the Frog is back home, on the shelf in my room from where he once came. Where he will stay, until the next time Clairissa has a spot where she can keep him for a while. He truly is our love child, and she can visit him any time she wants.

Because I said so. That’s what parents say, right?

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