I Sing the Buddha Electric

“I have a surprise for you” said my ex as she bounded into my kitchen without so much as knocking on the door.

“Oh, ok, hold on a sec.” I respond to her with a mix of dread and feigned enthusiasm.

I finish doing the dishes as the calm of my house descends into chaos. Her very presence turns the smallest slight into a tragedy, the most minor transgression into a screaming match, the mere perception of being cheated into an abuse charge.

I want her to leave. I want her to leave so badly that it is only by shear willpower that my head does not pop off my body and explode all over the kitchen. I worry how I will clean my brain matter off the blades of my ceiling fan. The thought of this temporarily calms me.

My trance is violently interrupted by the sound of my ex shrieking that she has been kicked by one of the kids.

“Why did you kick me?” she asks our 10 year old as she pulls up her pants exposing her unshaven leg and an invisible bruise.

“I didn’t kick you.” Our 10 year old shouts back defensively.

“You did, you know you did. Why do you want to hurt me?” she whales as she rubs her invisible bruise.

“It was an accident” pleads my son, to her then to me.

I turn away from my dishes and address the two parties.

“Was it a mistake?” I ask my 10 year old.

“I didn’t kick her” he says emphatically.

“Well it felt like a kick” decries my 48 year old ex.

“I saw you do it.” pipes in my 10 year old daughter.

“Stay out of it” I threaten as I wistfully ponder the fantasy of my head exploding all over my kitchen.

As I dry my hands and approach the angry mob, I notice the choral like quality to their cries, like a three part round of Row Row Row your boat. The only difference is the words. You,You,You kicked me , No,No No, I Did Not.

Iattempt to reclaim control over my home and find myself nearly yelling to be heard above the din of the aggrieved. Finally, my ex and our children under duress, each say I’m sorry, and retreat to their corners.

“Don’t you want to see what I got you?” my ex asks as if nothing just happened.

I don’t. I am not even curious. I feel burdened by the very paper bag sitting on my kitchen table. Another bag is all I keep thinking. I spent four years untangling my shit from her shit, and now another thing to get rid of; the bag and its contents.

The phone rings, temporarily rescuing me from the pending doom that awaits me in the paper bag on my kitchen table. I use the robotic telemarketing call to gather what resources I have to face the surprise.

I thought I was done with surprises. What my ex calls a surprise, most people would win at a bingo game in a nursing home. Among the many surprises I have received during our 17 years together includes a near gallon size bottle of Jean Nate, a salad spinner, giant chocolate lips, a reproduction set of military medals from the former Soviet Union, the automatic car opener that came in a blister pack and required professional installation (not included), a Euro Sealer, two pairs of pajamas that I was forced to wear withher so that we would be matching even though the girth of her thunderous breasts nearly popped the buttons off the top and the poly-cotton blend caused my skin to break out.

I cringe at the memory of all the gifts I pretended to like as to not appear ungrateful; the cell phone I never wanted, the other cell phone I never used, the cell phone she bought for me and used for herself, and the cell phone that never worked but for reasons that were never quite clear, had no receipt and could not be returned.

I recall the year I discovered the joy of the “short story” and was given two enormous books entitled Short Stories by Black Writers. As I lifted the heavy volumes from the wrapping paper I remember struggling for the right words to express my gratitude for two books I never wanted and would never read. The books might as well have been titled; Short Stories by Unknown Black Writers or Short Stories from the Dollar Store.

My thoughts return to the paper bag on the kitchen table. I sit down at the table to see what surprise awaits me. I reach into the bag and pull out a plastic Buddha holding a plastic clear globe over its head.

“Plug it in, plug it in” she and the kids say in unison. Even as I reach for the plug and approach the outlet, I can’t help but feel that this whole thing is just wrong. As my eyes scan the plastic Buddha with its bloated belly and ear to ear grin, it just doesn’t feel right to plug in a Buddha.

“Don’t you just love it?” she asks, but before I have a chance to respond, she answers for me.

“I know how much you love the Buddhism and when I saw it I just had to get it for you.”

“Yes indeed I do love the Buddhism” I say and cradle the hollow shiny Buddha.

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