Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Manly Accessories

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Manly Accessories

(Brian is the surly-looking dude in the middle)

I have been awake for hours, and it's only 5 a.m. My stomach feels like a thick plastic bag full of churning battery acid. There is a skunk below my office window somewhere in the darkness, and the pungent odor is making my tortured gut do flip-flops. I swallowed a half charred hot dog and three cheap, watery beers earlier, and I can feel them sloshing around, not even beginning to digest. Stress has been taking its toll on me. I have watched myself withdraw from the world around me and have become more antisocial than ever. I just don't feel like dealing with anything. My friends are even beginning to worry. I haven't been returning phone calls or e-mails. I can hardly even concentrate long enough to blog. My head is a mess, and I am finding it more and more difficult to perform tasks more complicated than locating my car keys. There is a lot going on here outside of Williams world for once, and I am not coping well. In fact, I cannot bring myself to talk about the feelings I have about life at the moment. They are too raw, painful, and personal. At least for now, anyway. For now, I am in survival mode. That's all I can do.

I have been having some fun lately, despite my desire to become a complete hermit. Yesterday was Brian's Kung Fu San Soo demonstration. I found myself sitting on a flimsy folding chair in a small Martial Arts studio in which the air was hot enough to fire pottery. Thankfully, my friend Shaena sat by my side, easing any anxiety I had about being immersed in a social situation with people I don't know. Our husbands have been friends since second grade, and they apparently got into a fight soon after they met. I found it more than humorous that we were about to watch them beat each other up again. When we were informed the bathroom downstairs had been used by one of the guys and overflowed its banks, Shaena and I scurried over to the biker bar next door to use their powder room. After a very brief discussion in which I'm unsure if any actual words were exchanged (we communicate telepathically at times), we ran up to the bar to swallow one fiery shot of Jack Daniels each followed by swigs of ice-cold Pepsi on the way out the door. The spiky sensation of the carbonation felt wonderful inside my dry throat. We then ran back across the softening, sunbaked asphalt to the studio housed in a cinder block building in the middle of the industrial part of town as our deodorant and hairspray threatened to fail in the heat. Shaena's slow cooker full of baked beans was plugged in near the bottom of the stairs, and the delicious scent of the food was just beginning to waft through the air, serving as a reminder that we would have a celebratory feast soon.

The demonstration began. We received a brief introduction regarding San Soo and the art of street fighting. The word "violence" was used quite casually several times and seemed to hang in the air. Being a survivor of a violent crime years ago, I detest violence but have developed a strange obsession with it and fully appreciate some of the methods used for self-defense. There were two groups of people there. Our region wore the traditional gi, a double-weave cotton uniform that is about as heavy as the lead bib they drape over your chest at the dentist right before they fire up the x-ray machine. Our group was soon dripping in sweat but looked sharp. The group of men from the valley wore red polo shirts and black pants, interrupted by thick belts in colors that indicated each man's classification or rank in San Soo.

Watching men's sweaty bodies collide like competing rams during mating season immediately took my mind off the temperature of the room. We clapped and yelled enthusiastically, and the atmosphere was surprisingly comfortable and supportive. Violent, yet warm and fuzzy. The action was slowed down for our benefit so we could witness the techniques used, and the grunts and groans were purposefully exaggerated. I was thankful I attended because I could see what a wonderful, healthy emotional outlet and escape this could be for my husband. I also pity the fool who tries to snatch my handbag at the mall. After the demonstration and the awards ceremony that followed, during which Brian received his yellow belt, we went to pick up Erik from his day care provider and drive to a nearby house with the other participants and their families for a barbecue. Erik was in constant motion except when he located a wheelbarrow on the side of the home. He spun the tire on it for extended periods of time, sometimes flipping onto his back in the wet grass to use his feet, creating a gnarly, wet stain on his clothing. When I went to check on him several times, the other children, who ranged greatly in age, were gathered around him talking to him or playing nearby. Surprised, I smiled and went back to my chair with the adults. Erik often gently grasped the hand of the beautiful older girl who played with the group, and she graciously let him trail her around, even coming back when her family was leaving to say goodbye to him. The only time I felt anxious was when Erik repeatedly encountered the one step from the deck to the walkway in the center of the party. I would yell, "Step down!" in the middle of my conversation with another partygoer, and he would careen off the thing at mock speed, miraculously landing on his feet and continuing his path of motion without skipping a beat. He is simply horrible with steps. Several people laughed and commented on how active he was. It was hard to tell if anybody picked up on the fact he was different, although I thought it was pretty darn obvious. One man labeled him a "real character," and I cheerfully agreed. He refused to stop long enough to enjoy much dinner, and we let him run and play. He chased the dog around, asking the poor animal a relentless string of questions a la Geraldo Rivera.

When cardboard boxes full of colorful, largely unfamiliar bottles of wine and liquor were produced and our grilled meat sandwiches and salads had been consumed, I finally made the motion to leave. I was afraid that if I stayed another few minutes, I would join the friendly, testosterone-soaked mob in the festivities and end up asleep on the attractive landscaping behind me.

(Next in this strange, reality-dodging series of posts: I finally water the Chia Pet I received for Christmas. Stay tuned.)

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Anonymous Slappy said...

I, too, will pity the fool who attempts any type of crime on us. My husband was very pleased at receiving a yellow belt as well. I am proud of them both. From the looks of things, I am thinking we will be attending quite a few more ceremonies in the future. I will enjoy them even more at your side, trying hard not to snort some sort of beverage out my nose as you zing "comedy" without warning. On a more serious note, we will get together soon and "escape" from some of the harsher things in life, even if just for an afternoon.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I can just imagine the smell in the room full of hot sweat.... ewww! But congrats to Brian for a great performance!

How cool that Erik was just "one of the kids" running around... it eases the mind and can let you relax. As for anythig else going around, I'm always here if you need an ear :)

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Auntie Dee~ta said...

We are all doin the victory dance here for B2. Uncle Brian TOTALLY ROCKS!!!!! Woo-Hoo a yellow belt!

And YOU girl, if I can do anything for ya... I am a phone call away and I can always jump in the truck and come your way!! Anytime...

Keeping you close to my heart and always in my thoughts and prayers!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

My hubby has become a fan of UFC and I have to say it is kind of fun to watch all that manly power being thrown around :)
I am glad that you made it out even if just for a bit.


9:32 AM  

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