“FOR FUCK’S SAKE, WOMAN! He’ll make more goddamn friends!” I’ve had to shake the feeling of that moment off many times after it comes creeping into my mind uninvited and unannounced.
Kiley is a motor mouth! Chat, chat, chat all the time. Her mom admits that her childhood was full of, “mind your own business!” This morning, Kiley sat at the table just staring straight into space. I ran the coffee grinder, that stupid loud machine (I’d rather crank-grind my beans), but she only blinked.
I sidestepped near the table, tilting my head into her field of vision. Her eyes catch me there, but she doesn’t look at me. “What’s the matter, sweetie?” I ask, with no response. I decide to dig. “Hey, I’m sorry things are so rough right now. Your mom and I are in a tough spot and we’re doing the best we can, okay?” A slight nod lets me know she’s listening at least. “What’s making you the most upset? Is it your mom and me?” I worried a lot about how disruptive our recent first heated fight might have been on the kids. “Is it the moving?” She looks at me with another nod. I affirm how moving is always tough and unsettling.
I’ve spent my whole life moving one place to another. By now, every time I pack my belongings, it feels like breaking camp. What a nice spot this was, and I just hope the next occupants don’t think the previous ones were a bunch of slobs while I pick up trash and wipe windowsills. I also find it very refreshing to purge the old papers, abandoned projects, expired medicine, and rarely used condiments that have glued themselves to their spot in the fridge door.
I ask further, “What part of moving upsets you the most?” Not that I had to ask. She tells me she’s never going to see her friends again. I try to comfort her with the promise of technology. I tell her that when I was a kid, all I had was paper to write a letter to my friends. It isn’t very easy to pen out a letter, then drop it in the mail, knowing it’ll take a week at least to reach its destination. For two weeks, I waited patiently. After the third, I felt discouraged. Slowly after that, came the acceptance that my friends just weren’t that interested in me. Nowadays (that’s actually a word! ha) we have the world at our fingertips and even homeschool kids can turn into social butterflies.
I try to explain that it’ll be alright, but the thought of leaving alone already has her missing the last set of friends she made. There was some inappropriate contact from a certain little boy that caused a transfer. Kiley didn’t understand why she had to leave her friends then, as much as she doesn’t understand the causes now.
Honestly, I have many of the same feelings about my moves. However, in this digitally connected age, it’s a bit different. I moved on from marriage while I was in university. All of our friends suddenly became her friends as she filled them all with one sided opinions and outright lies about me. I was in my sophomore year and had no time for socializing. Over the following couple years, a lost friend would contact me and whatever news I shared with them would quickly come back on me via baby’s momma. The only friends I could trust were my colleagues in school. One unfortunate Father’s Day, I was handed a court summons as I dropped my son off. Preparing for that awful day derailed my studies just short of earning the paper for it. All my colleagues graduated, then got jobs, and mostly stuck together. I lost touch with them all. I like to think they still think of me, but who knows?
It’s still painful to think of all the great times I’ve had with my friends. Family commitments and my girl’s social anxiety keeps me from reconnecting. Even as we attempt to start a business together, she is repulsed by the notion of employees or having to share it with anyone. Past lovers, well, they are not to be mentioned in the least. I can concede that maintaining contact with Michelle, the girlfriend before Kim, was going to be cancerous to our relationship. But sometimes my heart genuinely aches to not have her in my life anymore. A smile slips across my face as an image of my camping trip with Zoe slides through my mind and I have to suppress it. “What was that look for?” Kim grills me. Nothing but random thoughts I try to convince her. A layer of guilt and shame grows over that feeling of elated joy.
At the moment, though, it’s tough enough just to explain to a 6 year old girl, a very social one at that, how life just goes like that sometimes. I certainly can’t tell her how much worse it could be, I can only know that I’m doing far better by her than my father did by me.