Sunday, May 28, 2000

Looking for cheese? Skip the fridge, try a teen's bedroom




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        His room:

        Adidas bag. School books, underwear, playing cards. Jogging pants, Dixie cup, Rolling Stone, CD case. On the floor.

        Clothes hanger, sock, AA battery, paper airplane, hairbrush, baseball hat, glue stick. Cheese.

        Cheese?

        On the floor.

        Lamp on the desk. Also, pencil sharpener, nail clipper, dictionary, Wite-Out, photo album, drinking glass, love letters, sock.

        Sock?

        Sock on the desk.

        Pictures on the walls: Skateboarders, hockey goalie. Gym shoes. Rock bands: Rage Against The Machine. A group of guys sticking out their tongues. Another group of guys, wearing masks and eye shadow, sticking out their tongues. Korn: “Everybody's Got Issues. Do You?”

        He does. He has issues. I think they're in the closet. Next to the empty popcorn bag.

        Nintendo on the dresser, CDs on the nightstand, cologne on the window ledge. Dirty clothes, sprouting from the corner. Used towels.

        He can't find anything. Naturally. It's hard to find socks when the only thing in the sock drawer is a piece of Doublemint from 1994.

        “You need socks?” I ask. “Look on your desk.”

        His room: I don't go in there without backup.

        I don't open drawers. I never look under the bed.

        I don't want to know.

        He is 14, almost, too far gone to save. If he wants to build Mount Trashmore in his 10-by-10 space, he can. There are worse things.

        Do you know someone like this? Would you like to?

        It can be arranged.

        Before we were married, my wife lived in a two-bedroom apartment, which was luxury by our 20-something standards. Except one bedroom was littered with stuff. It looked like a garage sale, only without the sale or the garage. In the center of the room was a three-foot tall piece of iron, in the shape of a man. I am not making this up.

        At some point in her vague past, my wife had driven a big-engine, rear-wheel drive Mustang. The Mustang was a joke in the snow, because of all the weight in the front. When the weather got nasty, she put the iron guy in the trunk, for ballast.

        She called him Welder Man.

        “Are you ever going to get rid of that thing?” I asked.

        “I need him.”

        “How long since you sold the Mustang?”

        “Five years.”

        I blame my son's room on her.

        Every so often, I'll leap into a rage and destroy his room. I'll pull the sheets from the bed and flip the mattress on its side. I'll take what's left in the drawers (love notes, skateboard wheels, Math homework, cheese) and dump it on the floor.

        I'll make the room look like the Book of Revelation. Then it occurs to me:

        It doesn't look different.

        “It wasn't like this this morning,” he might say.

        “The stuff multiplies when you're at school. Leave it alone and in a week, it'll be an Old Navy franchise.”

        Every once in awhile, I get that guilty-parent feeling that the only time I talk to my kids is when I'm screaming at them for messing up. That passes quickly enough.

        “Could you please take the sandwich out of your dresser?”

        I used to think the walls of the Astrodome in Houston were the source of all penicillin mold in America. I don't now.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.

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