A few weeks ago I took Jackson out for date night. Jack had a jazz gig with just him on bass and Little Al* on guitar, on the leafy patio of a dance club downtown, and it was an altogether incredibly pleasant and civilized thing to do. Jackson just stayed in my lap eating french fries and listening to Blue in Green, and when it started to get a little chilly we said goodbye and walked down to Dahlia’s bar so Jackson could get a kiss from the woman he loves. She wasn’t in yet, though, so to siphon off the poison of his bitter disappointment, I bought him some ice cream.
There’s a Coldstone Creamery just around the corner from Dahlia’s bar. I’d never been there, but I had a dim memory of some interns at my last place of employment doing a little eye-rolling, lip-licking, “Ooooh it’s so good look at me I have goosebumps just thinking about it” dance when someone mentioned the place. We went in, we got in line, we contemplated bins and endless bins behind finger-smeared glass of nuts and jimmies and cookie crumbs and coffee grounds and cigarette butts and things I personally would never want in my ice cream, like gummi bears. But I left it up to Jackson and he chose strawberry ice cream with peppermint patties mixed in. And right when our awkward teenager with a mouthful of braces was in the middle of paddling our products together, someone put a dollar in the tip jar. And all three teenage girls behind the counter slammed down their stainless steel scooper paddles on their refrigerated granite paddling surfaces and started SINGING AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICES! BECAUSE NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED HERE AT COLDSTONE CREAMERY! Because you don’t just apply for a job here, you audition. So we had to stand a foot away while the first, second, and third chair sopranos in the Santa Barbara High School Choir joylessly bellowed If You’re Happy and You Know It for their .33 cents each.
And I haven’t even gotten to the point of this story yet. So we’re sitting and eating our ice cream at a sticky little kids’ table that’s about two feet off the ground when a girl about five years old comes up next to me. And I look up and smile at her and she gets this look of mild horror on her face. And of course I know what’s wrong: my eyeball has once again slid out of place. I have a lazy eye, and it starts drifting center when I’m tired, or most annoyingly if I’m trying to eat and read at the same time. It’s been years since anyone’s said anything about it. I think it was maybe fourth grade when Mike diPietro stood up in the lunch room and shouted, “[THE FUTURE MRS. KENNEDY] IS CROSSEYED!” Grownups tend to doubletake and then politely ignore it**, but the more time I spend with the juice-and-graham-crackers set the more looks of utter confusion I receive. To the point where yesterday Jackson pleaded, “Mom, stop making your eyes scary.”
* We have three Als in our life. Little Al was Little Al way before I met him; he’s little, his name is Al, what can you do. Then we have Alastair, who is also a guitar player, but much more in the Shredding Lord of Rock style, so we call him Met-Al. As in Heavy. Heavy MetAl. Then we have Alison next door, and although I can’t imagine a situation in which she’d be confused with the other two, she’s British so we call her Posh Al. We were actually thinking of making a change to Sporty Al last week, but as I was in the midst of my Tequila Cleanse I’m not really sure what everyone agreed on.
** Jack claims that it was just this particular flaw that made him fall in love with me. So there you go, girls: if you ever want to lure my husband away, just look at him crosseyed and talk like Rosie Perez. I won’t stand a chance.