Monday, August 06, 2012

For Lenore—Kenneth Kao

Ah, the story behind the story.  Well, lucky for me, there's a story behind "For Lenore" that I don't have to exaggerate one bit.  And it's crazy.

It all began with a fight with my wife.

See, my wife has this irresistible urge to take things, even if she's for-lenorentitled to them.  Usually, she takes things in the form of too many napkins at a restaurant or a roll of toilet paper from a public bathroom, but when it comes to construction equipment and road signs...

It always goes down to this: she sees a cone on the road; she wants to take it; I'm the one driving; she leans out to grab it; I swerve away.
Or, we're walking and before I know it she's carrying it with her, or wearing the cone as a hat.

Well, one night, I come home to find her with a sign.  Not just a sign, but a big neighborhood corner sign sitting in the middle of the living room(see attached picture).  She's the cutest thing in the world, so saying no to her--especially after she has her hands on something--is akin to taking an ice cream triple-decker cone from a kid.

But--I'm the stiff, "boring", the ethic driven guy in our relationship.  She's the naughty, playful, and interesting one.  I always have to tell her, "No, return what you took, I love you and you're cute as hell but we can't steal."  When she puts the thing back, the look she gives me always makes me feel guilty as hell.

Anyway, I played along for as long as I could.  I think she was testing me to see how far she could push it before I broke, but hours later and she wasn't showing any intention of putting the sign back.
I panicked, a little, and then a lot as she kept shaking her head and hugging it as reply to my prompts--

I snapped.

I told her it was STEALING, and no matter what, we had to put it backfor-lenor gosh-dang-it.  I yelled at her.  And made her feel bad.  And then I felt bad.  And she put the sign back outside where she'd found it and went to bed all sullen and quiet.

She didn't say a word to me the rest of the night.

So, 3am and unable to sleep, I decide that I'm going to my clinic--I have patients early the next morning.  I'm still seething, mostly from my own guilt, but also angry because I felt like, "Why the heck did you have to push me so far?  You knew exactly what you were doing!"

...But on the drive to the clinic.  There's this construction zone that's been going on for months.  There are these THINGS.  Big, orange, trash can sized reflector things that I've only recently learned are called "tire ring drums.”

They are massive and round and heavy(25 pounds of unwieldy-ness).  And the thought crosses my mind: What if?  It would be epic.  It would be the can't-top-this move.  It'd be romantic!  She'd forgive me, and no matter what the moral consequence is--I owe it to her for yelling, right?

So, in my dress clothes, where a long stretch of road has no lights, I jump out of my car and pop the trunk and lug one of those around to throw into the trunk of my Camry.

Turns out it doesn't fit.  I think they were designed not to fit.

After running around the car and trying the back door, the front door, any way to get the thing in while hoping that no one comes driving down the road, I put it back and get in my car and give up.

My epic plan has failed.  My apology will never come through.  And if I steal something else, a mere cone, let's say--I would always know what could've been, and it wouldn't really mean that much since she's stolen cones before.  Or at the very least, it wouldn't mean what a super-sized tire ring drum would mean.

So I get to the clinic and I write, in my frustration, "For Lenore."
Originally titled: "The Bomb is Greener on the Other Side."

You could tell I was in some sort of mood.

The next day I treat my patients, but I can't get the idea out of myfor-lenor head.  I vividly see how sad my wife looked after I yelled at her.
She was only being playful.  So I visualize the size of the tire barrel thing and my tiny Camry--Why couldn't I have driven the Jeep!--and I purposefully stay late at the clinic.

On the way home, it's only slightly after dark around 8pm, I find a spot and go running out again.  I know a car's gonna come down the road any second because I've been sitting on the side of the road for several minutes, waiting for that brief window of opportunity.  I throw open the passenger side door and drop the seat back.  I seize one of the tire ring drums and put it into the passenger seat head first.  It's bottom touches the ceiling.  But it worked, and perfectly.  And then I'm off.  On my home with a dirty but shining, orange reflector thing next to me.

I imagine what a cop might do if he saw me.  But you can buy these online, right?  That's what I told myself, at least.

I get home, and my wife's making dinner, and I drag it in.

Her expression was everything I could've hoped for.

Gotta say, I felt like a stud.  And don't worry about the Tire Ring Drum, I'm the ethical guy, remember?


--Kenneth Kao

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