October 19, 2014
And sometimes during my waking hours I think, wouldn't it be something if this life was just a dream too?
By Jonathan Tropper
I was not expecting this book to be so, so funny & it's the first in a long while I enjoyed immensely throughout. The story is good, it's fine, but what made it great for me is the way in which it was told -- Jonathan Tropper is a great, funny writer using such expressions and metaphors to describe personal and intimate situations, anecdotes, family dynamics, in ways that made me literally laugh out loud. Given the circumstances of the family, especially the main character, Judd, it was a dark comedy of sorts.
The two following passages don't necessarily reflect the humor (this book is another case in which sometimes I was enjoying it too much to jot everything down) - but more the poignancy of the darker moments Judd experiences. Wish I could remember all the good lines! (Goodreads people captured many.)
"I have a recurring dream in which I'm walking down the street, all foot-loose and fancy-free, when I look down and realize that beneath my pants, one of my legs is actually a prosthesis, molded plastic and rubber with a steel core. And then I remember, with a sinking feeling, that my leg had been amputated from the knee down a few years back. I had simply forgotten. The way you can forget in dreams. The way you wish you could forget in real life, but, of course, can't. In real life, you don't get to choose what you forget. So I'm walking, usually out on Route 120 in Elmsbrook, past the crappy strip malls, the mini golf, the discount chains, and the themed restaurants, when I suddenly remember that I lost my leg a few years ago, maybe cancer, maybe a car accident, whatever. The point is, I have this fake leg clamped to my thigh, chafing at my knee where my calf used to descend. And when I remember that I'm an amputee, I experience this moment of abject horror when I realize that when I get home I will have to take off the leg to go to sleep and I can't remember ever having done that before, but I must do it every night, and how do I pee, and who will ever want to have sex with me, and how the hell did this even happen anyway? And that's when I will myself awake, and I lie there in bed, sweaty and trembling, running my hands up and down both legs, just to make sure. Then when I get up to go to the bathroom, even if I don't have to, and the cold bathroom tiles against my feet are like finding fifty bucks in a jacket pocket from last fall. These are the rare moments when it actually still feels good to be me.
And sometimes during my waking hours I think, wouldn't it be something if this life was just a dream too? And somewhere there's a more complete and happy and slimmer version of me sleeping in his bed, next to a wife who still loves him, the linens twisted up around their feet from their recent lovemaking, the sounds of their children's light snoring filling the dimly lit hallway. And that me, the one dreaming of this version, is about to shake himself awake from the nightmare of my life. I can feel his relief like it's my own."
"…I am three years old and riding my red plastic motorcycle in the park. It's cold out, I'm wearing my navy blue ski hat, and my nose is running copiously into my scarf. The plastic wheels of the motorcycle clatter loudly against the cracked asphalt as I push off with my feet to propel myself around an Olympic-sized sandbox. I don't know if I'm going clockwise or counterclockwise. I'm three years old; I don't know from clocks. Suddenly, a kid appears in my path, tall and fat, two lines of snot running equilaterally down from his nose to the corners of his mouth. He holds a gray milk crate over his head like the Ten Commandments being brought down from Sinai. "The Hulk!" he screams at me. I don't know what he means. I'm years away from Marvel comics, and even once I discover them, The Incredible Hulk will never make sense to me. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? You're never really sure, and moral ambivalence has no place in childhood. I'm three years old, and I have never heard of The Incredible Hulk, but this kid clearly relates to him intimately. And maybe he's pretending the milk crate is a car, or a house, or a large boulder, or an archenemy, I don't know. Whatever it's supposed to be, it hurts like hell when it hits my face. And then I'm off the motorcycle, lying on my side, the grit of the cold asphalt biting into my cheek. My nose and mouth are bleeding, and I'm coughing and spitting and crying, gagging on my own blood.
And then I'm borne up into the air by powerful arms, lifted high above the fat kid and my plastic motorcycle and the earth, really, my face pressed into my savior's large shoulder, which is somehow hard and soft at the same time. I bleed into the fuzz of his peacoat as he rubs my back and says, "It's okay, bubbie. You're okay. Everything is fine." And then he stands me up on a bench and pulls out a handkerchief to softly wipe away my blood. "That little bastard really nailed you," he says, gently picking me up again. I don't know what a little bastard is, I don't know who the Hulk is, I don't remember what exactly happened, but my father is holding me safely above the fray, and I'm burrowed hard into his powerful chest, and I'm aware of the fat kid somewhere down below but I know the little bastard can't reach me up here."