On the first day of this session, a mom walked in with her twin boys. (I actually just wrote two twin boys. You know, as opposed to three twin boys.) She was nice enough. She instantly started talking to Matthew and asking him if he'd be in class with her twins. We determined that he's actually one class above her boys but that, had her older son not just broken his arm, he'd be in Matthew's class. We chatted. She was friendly. Her older son wasn't with her.
On another day, Troy joined us and she had her broken armed child in tow. Troy and I were having a conversation and the boy kept joining in. He seemed a little old to be behaving the way he was but I didn't give it much thought.
Yesterday, I was sitting on the bench, watching my kids swim, when the woman walked in with her older son again. I folded my legs up so that she could get past me. She turned her back to me to shimmy down the row and ran her butt across my knee. Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. She's going to think I did that with my hand. "Oh I'm sorry," I said aloud. We'd had a few conversations so I was surprised when she didn't say anything.
I was on the very edge of the bench with my purse right next to me. The rest of the eight foot bench was empty. She sat about ten inches away from my purse. Her son followed her in and sat right next to her and half on top of my purse. I don't have a very big space bubble so it takes a lot to violate it. But it was feeling very close to popping.
I had my Nook on my lap. (This might seem like a weird detail but I assure you that it will come into play later in the story.)
The woman folded up a towel, put it on the railing in front of us and laid her head on it. Her son instantly began to nag her.
"Walk over there with me!" he demanded.
"Please walk over there with me!"
"No. Reynaldo*. Leave me alone."
"But I need you to walk over there."
"Go by yourself. You're eight!"
"Mom. Please. Walk with me," he whined.
"REYNALDO! NO! I TOLD YOU! I DO NOT FEEL WELL. I NEED TO STAY RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NEXT TO THE BATHROOM BECAUSE I AM SICK!"
At that point, I really contemplated picking up all of our stuff and moving to somewhere the germs weren't but Matthew looks at me for validation after every single exercise and I didn't want him to wonder where I'd gone. I tried to shift my face in the other direction without being too obvious.
After a ten second pause, Reynaldo started up again, "I really want to go over there." He pointed.
"THEN GO OVER THERE! I DON'T CARE. I SAID I DIDN'T CARE. GO OVER THERE. BUT GET OUT OF MY FACE BECAUSE I REALLY MIGHT NEED THAT BATHROOM!"
Yes, I was sitting next to her, but believe me when I say that the entire complex could hear her. I began wondering why you'd bring your kids to swimming lessons if you felt that sick.
The nagging and subsequent screaming went on for several more minutes. It was so ridiculous that I started to wonder if it was really happening or if I was Ally McBeal-ing the entire scenario. I could feel myself starting to laugh because it was so unreal. A grown woman--who up until this point had seemed completely sane to me--was engaging in an elementary aged fight with her child. There was no discipline, no correction of any kind. Just a continued shouting match. My lips began to quiver. My nostrils flared as I tried not to giggle. I needed a distraction.
I picked up my Nook, turned it on, and pulled up Angry Birds. Surely firing poultry at walls would keep me from laughing. The moment my screen lit up with those birds, the boy turned his attention toward me.
"Oh! Cool!" he shouted into my ear. Then he picked up my purse (oh yes, he did), moved it to the other side of him (pressed, now, up against his ailing mother), and sat half on my lap. It's true that I'm prone to exaggeration but let me assure you that this is not one of those times. "Oh hey, don't move that," I said but with no actual follow through because, well, it had already been moved and he was in my lap so I wasn't entirely sure what to do. I reached over him, picked up my purse, and put it on the ground. As I did this, I turned my body away from him and his mom in an attempt to breath clean air and regain my bubble. My legs were mostly hanging off the side of the bench and I had, literally, about five inches of wood for my butt. I could not scoot away from this kid without falling off. I turned the Nook away from him to try to give the social suggestion that DUDE YOU HAVE EFFECTIVELY PENETRATED MY SPACE BUBBLE.
His mother, still only ten inches away from me, with her head turned in our direction, said nothing. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that she didn't feel well. You're thinking that I should have had compassion. I know. I know all of this but her eight year old was on top of a TOTAL STRANGER and she didn't seem to care at all. And it's not like she was in a coma or something--she'd been perfectly capable of arguing with her child only moments before.
So, unsure of what, on earth, to do, I began playing Angry Birds. "Let me help you!" he yelled.
"That's okay," I said loudly because I was trying to let this mom know that I was uncomfortable. She said nothing. He stuck out his hand and started launching my birds. I tried to physically move his hand off my Nook.
"No! Hey. Let me show you!" he said, impatiently.
"I'm going to go ahead and do it," I said. Still nothing from his mother. I launched the bird and failed. It's really no surprise since I had a random eight year old sitting on my lap.
"Like I said, let me show you!" he spouted rudely and proceeded to try to take the Nook. I basically wrestled it back out of his hands. Then I did something I'm not terribly proud of. It
I faked a phone call.
I dropped the Nook into my purse, said hello into my phone and walked out the door. In the entry way, I proceeded to pretend to talk into my phone (theatre degree, you certainly come in handy sometimes) for a couple of minutes. When I went back in, Reynaldo had become interested in the drinking fountain.
I didn't get the Nook back out.
After a few minutes he approached his mom, "How do you feel?"
"A little better," she said. That's a relief--maybe you can discipline your kid now.
"Are you going to throw up?" he asked.
"Not right now." A bonus for everyone.
"Will you walk over there with me?"
"REYNALDO! I AM NOT GOING OVER THERE! GIVE ME A BREAK! COME ON."
Not long after this, another mom walked through the door. Her daughter is in the session after ours. She was pushing a stroller. Reynaldo jumped up and held the door for her (so, he has some redeeming qualities). "What a gentleman you are! Thank you!" the woman told him. He smiled.
She began walking over to the place of Paradise. Mecca. The location Reynaldo had been dying to get to for a half hour. THE SET OF BLEACHERS. "Hey!" he yelled after her. "Can I go with you?" She either didn't hear him or didn't think his question was directed at her because she kept walking.
"Yes! Go!" his mom said enthusiastically. "Go with her!"
This is not happening, I thought. And I began to feel the smile of absurdity forming at the corners of my mouth again. Sure enough, he trotted across the pool deck after her. She sat down on the edge of the bleachers. He sat right smack dab next to her. Right up against her torso. There was no room for her daughter. The woman looked back at our bench, confused. Reynaldo began to talk her ear off. She pulled her little girl on to her lap. Reynaldo stuck his head into her stroller and touched her baby. He talked more. I couldn't hear their conversation but it only took a couple of minutes before she stood up, pushed her stroller back across the deck and out into the entry way.
Still, his mother never said a word.
*Not his real name.