So no sooner have I moved into the pool house permanently than we got hit by some major drama around the Sharpman house. If I’d told you that one of the boys had a meltdown, y’all’d probably have guessed that, what with the diet and all, it’d be Matteo, right?
Then you’d be wrong. Maybe because we’ve all been keeping a close eye on Matteo, and because he’s been seeing the dietician who is I think a little like a therapist (Maya even called her a ‘food therapist’ at one point), he’s doing ok. He’s gonna be doing a lot better when he hits his goal weight (which could be as soon as next week) and he can start eating normally again, but he’s holding it together.
It’s Jacob who had the meltdown Monday morning.
Although I don’t work with the boys until the afternoon, I still get up and have breakfast with them before Dr. Peterson gets to the house. We were having a Mexican breakfast like Belen sometimes makes, which means some beans and tortillas to go with our eggs. I reckon it sounds kinda weird, but it’s actually pretty good once you get used to it. The boys even use plenty of hot sauce when we have a Mexican breakfast, which I gotta admit I’m not used to in the morning. Don’t get me wrong: I love spicy food…but the Salsa Tapatío doesn’t taste very good with coffee, even the Mexican coffee with cinnamon that Belen sometimes makes.
So Belen brought us our plates, Matteo dug in, but Jacob didn’t, which was the first sign that something was wrong, since he usually has a huge appetite first thing in the morning.
I took a tortilla from the tortilla warmer, then offered it to Matteo, who took a tortilla. Then I offered it to Jacob..
“Get ‘em while they’re hot, cowboy”.
“I’m not eating this shit,” he said. “Fuck this shit. I’m not eating it.”
Belen and I looked at each other. I think I looked as shocked as she did. It’s not like we don’t know that the boys know all those words, but they’re pretty good at watching their language, at least when there are adults around.
It took me a few seconds to react:
“Language, cowboy…you know you’re not supposed to talk like that.”
“Fuck that shit,” he said. “And I’m not eating this fuckin shit either.”
Part of me thought that it was a little cute how he was trying to use words like that without having much experience with it. I’d say it was like he was trying to imitate Keaton, but he’s only met Keaton the once, and Keaton was watching his own language then.
It stopped being cute real fast, though, when he picked up his plate and slammed it down on the table. The plate broke into several pieces and beans and eggs went flying.
“Ay dios!,” said Belen, rushing to get a dishtowel.
The whole situation was getting out of hand real fast, but something in me somehow kicked in and I became the adult in the room.
“No, Belen,” I said, looking at her. “Jacob’s gonna clean up after himself. And,” I went on, looking at Jacob, “you’re gonna apologize to me and your brother for ruining our breakfast.”
“Fuck y’all and fuck your breakfast and…and…fuck all of you,” he said, getting up and running from the room.
Belen looked at me and I looked at her. I guess my attempt at being a strict substitute parent had failed. Belen came over with a shrug and started cleaning up.
I don’t know how I noticed it with all the drama Jacob was making, but Matteo had sneaked an extra tortilla during the chaos.
I looked at him. Not because of the tortilla – I was willing to let that pass, especially as I’m the exercise police, not the food police – but because maybe he knew something about his brother. They didn’t come over to the pool house on Sunday night like they sometimes do, so I hadn’t seen them since dinner. Maybe something happened, I was thinking.
“He’s been like that for a while,” Matteo said. “Using bad words and stuff like that. He hit me last night too, pretty hard.”
“How come you didn’t tell someone?,” I asked.
“I didn’t want to get him in trouble…”
Belen had finished cleaning up the mess Jacob made by this point.
“Donde estan la senora y el senor?,” I asked.
“They left early,” she said. (Me and Belen usually play a game where I try to talk Spanish to her and she answers me in English. There’s nothing wrong with Belen’s English…it’s just that I like the chance to practice my Spanish.)
“Is something the matter?,” asked Dr. Peterson, coming into the breakfast room. He usually grabs something to eat before going upstairs. This time he made his ‘oh – Mexican breakfast’ face that I’ve learned to recognize. He even dislikes the coffee with the cinnamon – he drinks his coffee black usually – so Belen put on the kettle to make him a cup of instant.
“We just had a scene with Jacob. He broke his plate and went charging out of the room. And Maya and Robert aren’t here.”
“I’ve been expecting something like that to happen. Jacob’s been very difficult for the past couple weeks. He’s refusing to cooperate in class and won’t do any homework. And he’s been beating up on Matteo.”
I wanted to ask why no one had told me anything about that, but then I realized I had just no more authority than Dr. Peterson.
“That’s weird,” I said. “He’s seems ok when I’m with him.”
“That’s because he likes doing sports,” said Dr. Peterson, kinda looking down his nose at me and my department, like he does pretty often. “He wouldn’t be acting out with you.”
“Well…,” I said, “He just did.” There was a silence. “Did you tell Maya or Robert about Jacob not doing his work?,” I then asked. “Don’t get me wrong, man…I’m not checking up on you or anything…I just want to help.”
“I told them,” said Dr. Peterson, kinda looking like he didn’t like being called ‘man’. “Maya made an appointment for him to see a child psychologist, but the doctor’s booked up for weeks. Seems like a lot of kids are melting down.” He shrugged. “I guess we have to go find him and see if there’s anything we can do. Do you want to go or shall I?”
Dr. Peterson didn’t sound like he’d be very sympathetic, so I volunteered to go find Jacob. I didn’t know where he was, but I figured that his room was the best place to start looking.