My son has his high school orientation this week. We arrive early, so I steer us to a row of side seats in the far back where I can monitor the influx of people.
It’s my job as a good mother to suss out the scene and liberally narrate my findings for Django’s benefit. So I’m busy calculating the ratio of girls to boys when a man in a track suit approaches and asks, “Is this seat taken?” of the empty next to us.
And it’s nothing short of unbelievable to me, because there’s a whole auditorium of other seats available.
It immediately reminds me of the time at the amusement park when a single tried to join Lovey, Django and me on the ferris wheel.
“You are not riding with us,” I told him, straight up.
And Lovey and Django were embarrassed and were like, “Delilah…”
But I said to the them, “Look, guys. We don’t know him, right? And for all I know he’s the type of person who throws kids off the ferris wheel when it stops at the top. Do you really think I’m going to just let that happen?”
This somehow made their embarrassment worse, but I turned to the man and said, “It’s a safety issue, okay? I’m sorry. The answer is no.”
And at that I closed the little ferris wheel door, because the attendant whose job it should have been was just standing there uncomfortably and not doing it for me.
The single sat instead in the cart right behind us. The kids claimed it ruined the whole ride for them. And to be honest, it cast a negative light on my experience as well.
But no kids were thrown from the ferris wheel that day, so it’s pretty clear I did the right thing. Except for that I maybe should have also added, “And you can’t ride in the cart behind us, either.”
This time I don’t make the same mistake.
“All of these seats are taken actually,” I say, throwing my arm wide.
Referring, apparently, not only to the seat next to Django, but to all of the seats in the nearby vicinity.
“All of them?” the man echoes.
“There are plenty of seats up front,” I point out, helpfully.
The man in the track suit looks confused for a second, then retreats. As soon as his back is turned, Django literally does a facepalm, because that’s a real thing teenage boys who have mothers do.
“You are so embarrassing.”
Django has trouble being as direct as I am. This concerns me, and I make a note to review it with him later. But right then and there, I just make the teachable moment as short and sweet as possible.
“I’m sorry,” I say to him. “But did you want that man who is at a high school orientation sans an actual high schooler to sit next to you? Because I didn’t.”
Django shakes his head, but not in the way that means no. More in the way that means he can’t believe this is happening.
He’s had a relatively easy life, my son.
“Just stop, okay?” Django says, fighting a smile so that I will hopefully take him seriously.
“I love you so much Django,” I let him know, loudly. “Sometimes it’s everything I can do not to scream it out at the top of my lungs.”
“Oh my God, Delilah.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sympathetic to how embarrassing one’s parents are at his age.
But when it comes down to it, I have been personally surveying the arrival of dozens of other mothers, and with all modesty, I’m for sure in the top two percent of moms you wish you had.
Unless you’re Django. But whatever.
“It’s okay to be embarrassed by me,” I tell him. “It’s part of life, totally normal. So you’re right on track. But really, boy, when you have a chance, check out some of these other parents and count yourself lucky.”
That’s what I say. And it’s within probably thirty seconds of that comment that I see The Piranha walk through the doors.
I grab Django’s arm.
“Oh my God. Is that your dad?” I ask him.
Django’s head shoots up, and before I know it he’s waving his hand in the air.
Like in that come hither kind of way.
I fight the urge to grab his hand and pull it down.
Besides, Django has already caught his attention, anyway.
The Piranha gives Django a chin nod, and begins the ascent to us.
There are a lot of sudden revisions to this situation on which I should probably focus in order to stay sharp.
But wouldn’t you know it? I’m instead hypnotized by The Piranha’s approach.
Despite how wrong things have always been between us, the man has got a great strut.
It has long since been my undoing.
“Hey,” he says, upon reaching us.
And then he does a surprising and weird but very cool thing, and takes a seat in the row behind us.
If you’re into reading too much from gestures that probably mean nothing, his taking the seat above us kind of says that he’s watching out for us. That he’s got our backs.
You know, like how I thought he was supposed to have done from the beginning?
“Delilah has just been embarrassing me,” Django fills him in.
“Oh yeah?” The Piranha says.
These two. All these years later, and I’m still the main thing they have in common. But so it goes.
The Piranha leans back and spreads his arms across the width of the neighboring chairs on either side of him.
“You ready?” he asks our son. I assume he means about high school.
“Yeah,” Django says.
“Are you?” I ask.
It sounds about as snide as I intend, which is kind of too bad, because a part of me is actually glad he’s here.
“I’m ready,” he says, grinning. “Let’s do this.”