An excerpt from

Perfectly Broken

The ache in my thighs reminds me of jumping off speaker cabinets during a show by my former band, Stereoblind. A similar burn troubled my leg muscles back then, in the late eighties and early nineties, when I’d wake up in a strange bed, post-gig, stiff from exertion, ears ringing, the occasional sleeping stranger at my side. All pre-marriage, pre-fatherhood.

This pain is from walking up and down, up and down five flights of stairs all day, removing my family’s possessions from our tenement apartment. I straighten up from the final duct-taped box marked “MIXTAPES—’97,” and step back from the U-Haul trailer to assess our material goods: TV/VCR combo, vintage (and faux vintage) clothes, furniture salvaged from these very East Village street corners, a dozen or so saved LPs (unplayed for years), my wife Beth’s chapbooks and dog-eared spiral-bounds, and my 1962 Ampeg Portaflex B-15 bass amp.

In planning this dreaded day, I’d insisted we forgo professional movers, opting instead to spend hours cramming everything into our ’95 Camry and the trailer. Save a few bucks, assert some male brio, compensate for four years of decidedly non-macho stay-at-home dadhood.

Beth did her part, boxing and bagging up our life, working up a dusty sweat. She’s in better shape than me. In a threadbare, sleeveless Pyramid Club T-shirt, her anterior deltoids ripple, remnants of a corporate gym membership now months lapsed.

Retired rock star Paul, gone for cigarettes and beer, has kept watch over our four-year-old son, Evan, while Beth and I work. He is Evan’s godfather, although they both prefer the term padrino—Spanish for “little dad.” On his credit cards, Paul’s surname is Fernandez. On liner notes, it’s Fairchild.

Of all our friends and neighbors, only Paul came through for us on Moving Day, in part because he has no job. But, as ever, Padrino entertained Evan, shielding him like a jester protecting a boy king from court anxieties. Around noon, he squatted down to inspect Evan’s Sharpie art on the moving boxes.

“Hey little man,” he said. “What’re you drawing? A flying poop? Fuckin’ A! That’s totally a flying poop, like super poop or something.”

After squeals of laughter, Evan said, “Padrino! It’s a bee!”

Beth and I watched from the doorway. She sob-laughed quietly into my shoulder, pressing tearstains into the faded black of my T-shirt.

~

A new home awaits us, a furnished rental property courtesy of our old running buddies Trip and Christa Lamont. Their rental, a 1900 farmhouse they call Shulz House, is on a dead-end road three hours north, in rural Mt. Marie, New York.

After 9/11, Trip and Christa headed for the hills, buying a couple pieces of land in the Catskill Mountains, far away from the ashes of the World Trade Center and, they hoped, the memories of eight unsuccessful IVF attempts. They’ve since adopted a two-and-a-half-year-old Chinese girl named Katie, and all are nesting in a Victorian down the street from Shulz House. In recent emails, Trip refers to our upcoming tenancy in the Lamont “fiefdom.” This does not strike deeply indebted me as particularly funny. But Beth and I are desperate and, sight unseen, we’ve accepted our friends’ kind offer of a home.

We’ve not laid eyes on Trip and Christa in just over a year. Their recent glossy Christmas card showed only tiny Katie, standing in a snow trench before a garlanded porch, her wide, expressionless face framed by a pink snowsuit hood. Season’s Greetings from the Lamonts! Trip, Christa & Katie! The forced gaiety struck Beth and me as eerie.

I’ll be digging snow trenches soon, ugh. I’m hoping global warming will keep this task at bay, as I am pear-shaped where I once was Bowie-thin, and easily winded.