‘So what do you reckon?’ I say to Reservoir Mum, as Episode 8 of House Husbands finishes.
‘I don’t know,’ RM says. ‘Abi and Mark are still the most engaging characters…’
‘I just don’t get Justin, you know?’ I say. ‘It’s only several hours after he’s lost custody of his kids and he goes around to Lewis’s house to play poker with his mates. Then he throws down a bad hand and says, I’m out, like it matters in comparison to what he’s actually lost…’
‘Yeah,’ RM says. ‘Even before that… when he went out to break the news to the other House Husbands straight after the court case, he shakes his head a little and says, Nuh, with a sigh… like he’s just missed snagging an item on eBay.’
Several minutes pass before RM and I are able to talk to each other again on account of all the laughing. When I next talk it’s in a croaky, lower tone because of the water I’ve lost through happy-tears, and the pain in my sides.
‘I’ve been following the House Husbands Twitter feed,’ I say. ‘Firass Dirani was live tweeting man!! He seems cool. But it was driving me nuts because so many House Husbands fans were distraught because Justin didn’t get sole custody of the kids. I mean, of course he didn’t…’
‘People forgive Justin for a lot because Firass Dirani is so good looking,’ RM says, matter-of-factly.
(Before the next paragraph of actual speech, RM and I discuss the best word to describe Firass Dirani’s allure.)
‘Bingo,’ I say. ‘And the writers and producers and whoever else knew that when they were picking Firass’s pretty green eyes and tight multicultural butt to play the role. Because, really, his character seems only partially interested in getting access to his kids.’
RM nods and mentions her eBay joke again and after we laugh for a few moments more says, ‘Well, pretend you’ve just left the courtroom after finding out you’ve lost custody to Archie and Lewis and Tyson and Maki? Would you just shrug and say Nuh… ?’
‘There would be a lot of snot and tears… I would rip up the court’s carpet with my teeth and hands, leaving several incisors and all my fingernails in the wooden slats below,’ I say. ‘I would be like that giant woman from ‘The Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman’ stomping through cities in my underwear, only I would be a man and the view from below would be less desirable. I would cease all forms of pleasure and self care. There would be no poker games in my immediate future. I would adopt a cat to please the courts and stop dancing to 80s classics to appear more in tune with kids of today. I would need sedation for the pain. I would be so… so… so sad.’
‘Yep,’ RM says.
As I fall asleep I’m thinking of the Rick Astley concert I’m going to in November. After much anguish I decide it’s imperative that both RM and I go to the concert dressed as matching Rick Astley’s, complete in bone-coloured trench coats and perfectly styled hair. Once I’ve steeled myself to break the news to RM in the morning, my thoughts shift to Justin and Nicola.
They’re both unhappy but the main part of my sympathy is heavily weighted in Nicola’s favour. She’s given birth to three children while Justin was sleeping with a stripper, boozing on, and doing god knows what before we meet him in House Husbands. She has the right to be suspicious and is right to expect the worst from him when considering what’s best for her children. Still, an air of melancholy follows me down…
It’s 2.40am and when I wake to Tyson’s low moan from down the hall my entire body contracts like a single muscle and launches me from the bed – easily clearing Maki and Reservoir Mum – in one spasming bound. I’m outside the bedroom with the door closed before my feet even touch the ground and when Tyson sees me he starts his nightmare-spurned sprint for the safety of Daddy’s arms.
We’re running towards each other like lovers on a sandy beach, except that Tyson’s screaming hysterically and – thanks to a hormonal cocktail of sleep-inducing melatonin and flight producing adrenalin – I’m the equivalent of a 100 kilogram seizure on a collision course with the vulnerable bones of a three-year-old.
I manage to pluck Tyson from his mid-air leap without breaking stride, make a sharp left into his bedroom and soar into his Mr Men adorned single bed all the while saying, ‘Shhhh, Daddy’s here now mate. It’s okay.’
This is a common occurrence but the shock of it is fresh every single time and when I recount the details to others there are some that are quick to offer remedies or to shake their head, or to praise me for being so willing, but what they don’t know about this mid-night madness is that there is great reward in it for me.
I’m taking up the smallest part of a single mattress to ensure Tyson’s comfort and I only have access to the amount of doona he allows. In the morning I will have numb fingers from lying on my shoulder at this awkward angle. I’m tired and uncomfortable but he’s not suffering a night terror somewhere else, with someone else. I know he’s safe because we’re together like this.
I am fully aware that I am possibly an obsessive nutbar when my thoughts turn to House Husband’s again. I think of Justin sleeping uninterrupted and waking to silence and an empty house, with no awareness of his children’s night – the cries for Daddy, the nose bleeds and the wet beds, the nightmares and terrors followed by the cuddles and the warmth and the chance to be the immediate source of comfort and care. I imagine losing that myself and get a taste of grief so raw. I can only make the assumption, based on Justin’s reaction and behaviour, that he doesn’t understand what he’s losing and what he’s taking away from his kids.
Tyson’s hand is on my face now, so that he knows I’m with him, and his breathing is settling to the long rhythmic pulse of sleep. I would take a full night’s sleep if it was there for me – of course I would – but I would never take it before this.
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