I don’t know about other teenage boys. So far, I only have the one. But I find the one I have to be a little lacking in the communication department. Trying to carry on a conversation with him is often less fruitful than talking to an infant. At least the infant makes eye contact, coos in a way that seems responsive, and maybe drools on you a bit. This guy, he just looks somewhere past your shoulder or toward the floor and shrugs. Mumbles in a way that could be words or could just be him clearing his throat. Waits quietly for you to release him.
That’s what makes the talkative times so unbelievable and special. I drink them in and try to store them up, in the hopes the maternal high will hold me over until the next time. It’s what makes me willing to talk about literally anything, just to keep the conversation going. I’ll talk NFL, NBA, rap stars, internet personalities, high school drama, Modern Warfare. Literally anything. Or, at least, I’ll ask questions and sit back and bask in the flood of words coming out of his mouth, hoping each question will keep the hole in the breached dam open just a little bit longer.
I had one of those nights recently. I came home from work late. Very late. It was almost 8:00 in the evening. Daryl was in his bedroom, I think. I’m not sure because he was walking toward me just as soon as I entered the house. He was already talking before I had set down all of my belongings. He had a big smile on his face.
“I’m moving up to varsity,” he said.
“This week?” I asked.
“No. For the playoffs. I’ll finish the season on JV this week.”
“Oh. That’s not a surprise, right? I thought the whole starting team was moving up for the playoffs.”
“No.” He was obviously pleased. “Only about 7 of us moved up.” He rattled off some names. I started preparing a salad for my late dinner. I asked questions about the names he didn’t mention. We talked about who moved up and who didn’t and why we thought that was and whether he was likely to actually play.
“They said they might put us in for special teams some. And maybe a play or two. Maybe.”
I sat down next to my husband to eat my salad. I expected our son to wander off but he kept standing at the corner of the table, shifting his weight and flipping his hair back, and talking. Talking, talking, talking.
It was, simply put, glorious.
By the next night, we were back to our regularly scheduled programming. He didn’t look up from the PS4 when I walked in the door. He didn’t say hello. I wondered if he even noticed I was home. When I spoke to him, he’d quickly mute his microphone so his friends wouldn’t hear me, then he’d nod or give a one-syllable reply before resuming the online conversation about the game.
I was busy working on a project later in the evening when my husband walked up and said, “Did Daryl tell you about getting pulled over today?”
“By a cop?!” I asked, shocked. How, exactly, does a newly-minted sixteen year old fail to mention that?
“Yes,” my husband smiled. When I asked if he freaked out, he responded, “Thelma said he did.”
“Wait, Thelma?” Apparently a friend happened to be driving by and saw it. She said he looked really worried. It was during the school day. He was returning to the high school from a class at the middle school and had two other students with him. It was a legitimate trip for legitimate reasons, but having more than one passenger is technically against state law. I would have expected him to be terrified!
He didn’t get a ticket – just a warning for his brake lights not working. But still. I would have expected getting pulled over to rank up there with making varsity on newsworthy events. But then, I’m not a teenage boy.
I got his attention later that evening. He muted his mic. I asked him to come talk to me when he finished that round. “You aren’t in trouble,” I reassured the lad who was not the least bit concerned about what I wanted. The mic was already released; his attention had never left the screen.
A few minutes later he came into the bedroom, where I was propped up against pillows, writing this blog post. He paused at the corner of the bed, glanced at me, and rubbed his right arm with his left hand while he waited for me to speak.
“Is there anything you forgot to tell me about today?”
I got a brief confused glance and a mumbled “I don’t think so.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary happened in your day?” There was a brief pause.
“Oh, do you mean the brake light?” he asked.
“You getting pulled over. Yes. That’s what I’m talking about.”
He shrugged. “I wasn’t worried about it. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.”
“That’s not what the bystander said.”
“Someone saw it. They said you looked freaked out.”
“I wasn’t. I told Brian and Aaron that it was probably a taillight or something.”
“You were away from school during school hours with more than one passenger and you weren’t worried at all?”
“No.” Shrug. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Just for the record, this is the kind of thing I expect to hear about.”
A single nod.
“Anything else happen today that I should know about?”
A single head shake.
“Bomb threat? Lock-down? Teacher had a heart attack and you had to use the defibrillator on them?”
Slight smile, amused huff, more pronounced head shake followed by a “no.”
And that was it. He was back to his game and I was back to my blog. Wondering what makes him tick and when the cat would release his tongue again. And could I hold over until then. Ticktock… Ticktock… Tick… Talk…