At our apartment, the hot tub is a vortex of truth.
Not sure if it’s the heat, the mesmerizing whir of the jets, the twinkle of stars above or the weariness of day’s end, but getting in the tub seems to encourage us to say things we normally wouldn't.
My 12-year-old son and I stewed in the vortex Friday night. It was about 8:30 p.m. and about a half hour earlier, we’d just had a little earthquake.
Everyone else in their right mind stayed inside their homes, comforted by walls and foundation.
We sought refuge in the tub, a rare Friday night with no one else around. Spooky.
My son’s bangs cover his eyes and nose. He must flick his head to the side every few minutes to see.
The girls love his hair this way, legend has it. So he refuses a haircut. “But you said you would get one tomorrow,” I remind him.
“I was just humoring you,” he says cheerfully. I let it go. I decided long ago not to make an issue of hair choices.
At first he stands ankle-deep on the hot tub steps and complains about cuts on his legs.
He hesitates to get in, afraid the cuts will hurt, then relents. “Youch,” he says, entering the vortex. “Ouchie-wawa-youch.”
I point out that he wouldn’t get cut so much if only he’d wear jeans to school instead of basketball shorts.
“Why should I?” he asks.
“Um… because every time you fall on your skateboard you take another chunk out of your legs. Pretty soon you’ll be walking on ligaments.”
“Ewe, mom. You’re gross.”
“I know you are but what am I?” I retort like a 9-year-old. Can’t help myself. The vortex makes me do it.
My son submerges… a little too long… I start to worry.
He comes up for air with a big grin extending from one side of the hot tub to the other.
Hard to get mad at that grin.
I submerge, thinking how nice it is. A rare break from sibling rivalry. The jets massage my back. For a moment, I imagine we are at Club Med.
When I rise to the surface, the vortex woos my son into confession. “I bought five air pellet guns online for about $5 each. Sold them to friends for $20 each. Is that wrong?” he says.
The word “gun” keeps ringing in my ears. “You whaaa?”
My son, an arms dealer? I think this pretty squarely ruins the whole relaxation portion of the evening.
The immenseness of the confession makes the hot tub bubbles brew with added fierceness.
“Whu? Really? Why’d…? An air-what gun?”
“We play with them. They’re like BB guns. It’s fun. Some kids have air guns that are like automatic weapons. Hurts a lot when someone unloads on you. You get welts. The guns I bought were just pistols, secondary guns.”
He adds, “I only sold to kids who already had gun and I’m not doing it anymore. That was two weeks ago.”
“Those guns are dangerous," I tell him. "You could put an eye out.”
“Yeah… but we always wear goggles.”
I explain that cops sometimes think those guns are real and have shot kids playing with weapons like these.
My son , however, is 12 and therefore knows everything. “That’s why we don’t play with them in front of cops.”
The heat of the vortex seems to have drained my ability to even imagine a suitable punishment for this offense. He did confess, which is good. But some kid could hurt himself or someone else… and I suspect all of the deals were not parent-sanctioned.
I worry my son’s genius for money-making will soon win him a free trip to San Quentin.
We get out of the tub. Confusion drips off my body, following me across the concrete, through the gate, up the stairs and onto the carpet inside our apartment.
Do I punish him less because he confessed? How do I punish him?
As I tuck him in at bedtime, I amend our nighttime prayer. As I rub his back, I recite, “Bless me Lord as I lay down my head. Help me rest and sleep tonight, so when I wake up… I’ll think of something other than weapons to sell to my friends.”
As I lay in bed, I wonder, should I treat this like a Code Orange terrorist alert and install airport security x-ray machines in our front doorway? Require shoes to come off before entering. Pockets emptied. Bodies scanned.
Maybe I should follow the U.S. government ‘s lead and heavily tax any further windfalls from arms deals.
On my way to work in the morning, I come face to face with the vortex. "This is all your fault," I tell it.
It just looks at me, steaming.
That's when it hits me. This fascination with guns boys all seem to have is clearly a guy thing. Therefore, his dad needs to figure this one out, not me.
If I have to handle the Tampax talks with my daughter, it’s only fair he should get the arms deals. Right?
The vortex has spoken.