Ever since my wife and I separated I’ve been showering with dinosaurs. They belong to my son, and out of either laziness or… okay, mostly laziness, I usually just kick them to the foot of the tub and enjoy the swearing I get to exercise when I step on their inflexible plastic bodies. No one could say Stegosaurus wasn’t ready to defend himself, with that tail and plating, even if only three inches long. You step on one of them while naked and tell me you don’t back off.
To be honest, they don’t stay there just because of laziness. My son is with me half the week, and during that time they stay in the bathtub for his ease. After dinner I fill the tub and he jumps in and he and the dinosaurs hold a convention discussing number theory (“What is eight plus eight?”) and semiotics (“Why are ‘feet’ called ‘feet?'”) and evolutionary divergence (“Do eyes have eyes? How can they see if they don’t?”). Afterwards, the conference room is drained, the bubbles dry up and my son gets stories in bed.
So, this morning, after piercing my sole with a poorly proportioned pterodactyl, I considered how failure to evolve can lead to something worse than non-existence. It can lead to a shrunken, plastic, artificial misuse of a being’s nature. If dinosaurs—creatures that ruled and defecated upon the planet for 750 million years—turned into toys in a bathtub, what chance do I have?
This is no minor consideration. I’ve been plundered by evolve-or-die situations lately. My marriage evolved in a way that others might think of as death, but my ex and I know better. Certainly there was pain and fear, but there had been pain and fear for those first fish on land realizing they could walk and breathe and that thrashing for death wasn’t necessary. My ex and I found our way onto land and found a better terrain than we could have hoped for, a closer bond, stronger support from one another. Tiktaalik roseae found its way up on land, and didn’t even need a divorce lawyer.
My writing process has had to evolve or die numerous times over the past seven years. I used to write by hand, but that had to end as I never had work in a form that could be submitted. Like Triceratops, I have less time for transcription than I would like. I used to write when the urge struck. Then came a son and his urges struck instead. I began to write on the train, during my commute. It was a long ride from southern Brooklyn to mid-town Manhattan. I wrote three novels on that long ride. I have since moved. Math works like this: shorter commute equals less writing time. I now also take my son to school, take a total of four trains every morning, and often that many home. Getting a seat has become not only a luxury but a rumor. I stopped writing on a laptop due to lack of seating, wrote on a Nook while standing. But now even getting to a safe spot to type on the Nook is trouble. So I’m slowly backing up my alarm clock, heading to a 5 a.m. wake-up. Baby-steps. I’ll write when crickets are readying for bed. Is that a diplodocus I hear in the kitchen nosing my Keurig?
Most importantly, my parenting has evolved. My son has taken to living in separate apartments amazingly well. There was terror in his mother’s and my hearts for weeks about how to tell him that we would be moving to separate homes, that he would spend time with each of us but only rarely with both. When he looked at us and said, “I’ll have two rooms, and two beds!” and asked if one could be a bunk-bed, we realized he’d be okay.
So began the evolution from co- to single/part-time-parenting. The pressures of long hours spent with a child, the emptiness of long hours without. And I wake in the morning, and I write, and when my second alarm lets me know that writing is over and the workday has begun, I carry my oh-when-will-it-be-strong-enough coffee cup to the shower, and I step over the dinosaurs, though he hasn’t been here for two days and won’t be back for two more, though it would be easier and neater to put them in the box by the tub, though all I do is shower and glimpse at them and think that someday he’ll tell me they’re stupid and he doesn’t want them and they’ll be gone and I won’t even have them as a reminder that he’s not here.
I mourn the dinosaurs leaving. I mourn him taking my hand when we walk outside, though he does it every time, without being asked, and I try not to think of myself as being locked in a countdown to the day when he treats my hand like I know he’ll treat the plastic dinosaurs. I try not to imagine my being lost at the foot of the tub with them. Evolution is realizing that you’ll survive despite all your best efforts.
I mourn him growing even as I revel in it every time I pierce my sole.
I must rise earlier. I do. I never used to think of myself as a mourning person.