The Silver Linings Playbook (Chapter 16)
The Monday morning after the Eagles beat the Texans, a funny thing happens. I'm doing some initial stretching in the basement, when my father comes down for the first time since I have been home.
"Pat?" he says.
I stop stretching, stand up, and face him. He's on the last step, stopped as if he is afraid to set a foot down on my territory.
"You certainly got a lot of equipment down here."
I don't say anything, because I know he is probably mad at my mother for buying me a gym.
"There's pretty good Eagles coverage in the papers today," he says, and then extends the sports sections of the Courier-Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer to me. "I got up early and finished reading both so that you could keep up with the team. By your comments yesterday during the game, I could tell you don't know all of the players, and I thought maybe you'd like to follow along this season now that you're home and – well, I'll just leave them on the top step from now on."
I'm too shocked to speak or move, because my father has taken the sports pages with him to work ever since Jake and I were little kids. Jake used to fight with Dad all the time about this, asking him to at least bring home the sports sections after work so we could read the articles after we finished our homework. But Dad always left with the papers before we were out of bed, and he never brought the sports sections home for us ever, saying he forgot or lost them at work. Jake finally subscribed himself when he got his first job stocking shelves at the local Big Foods, and this was when we started reading the daily sports pages together every morning before school. He was twelve; I was thirteen.
I do three hundred sit-ups on the Stomach Master 6000 before I allow myself to pick up the paper from the bottom step. As my stomach muscles crunch and burn, I worry that my father is only playing a mean trick on me and that the papers will be the entertainment or food sections, but when I finish the sit-ups and make my way to the steps, I see that Dad really did leave me the sports sections of both papers.
When it is time for me to take my a.m. pills, I find my mom in the kitchen cooking eggs. My plate is set at the breakfast bar, and my five morning pills are laid out in a line on a napkin.
"Look," I say, and hold up what my father gave me.
"Sports pages, eh?" Mom says over the sound of frying eggs.
"Yeah." I sit down and pop all five pills into my mouth, trying to decide how many I will swallow today. "But why?"
Mom scrapes the eggs from the pan and onto my plate with her spatula. She smiles and says, "Your father is trying, Pat. But I wouldn't ask too many questions if I were you. Take what he gives you and be happy – that's what we do, right?"
She smiles at me hopefully, and right then I decide to swallow all five pills, so I take a sip of water and do just that.
Every day that week, I hear the basement door open and close, and when I check the top step, I find the sports sections, which I read from cover to cover while I eat breakfast with Mom.
The big news is the upcoming Giants game, which everyone thinks will be the key to winning the NFC East, especially since the Giants have already lost to the Indianapolis Colts in game one. A loss will put them at 0 – 2 and the Eagles at 2 – 0. The game is being hyped as a big one, and I have a ticket, thanks to Jake, which makes me really excited.
Each night, I wait for my dad to come home from work, hoping he might want to talk about the upcoming game with me – so I can use the current players' names and prove to him that I am a real fan again – but he always takes his dinner into his study and locks the door. A few times I actually go to his study and raise a fist to knock, but I chicken out every night. Mom says, "Give him time."
Sitting in the brown recliner, I talk about my dad with Dr. Cliff during my Friday appointment. I tell him how Dad is leaving me the sports sections now, and how I know this is a huge deal for Dad, but I wish he would talk to me more. Cliff listens, but says little about my father. Instead he keeps bringing up Tiffany, which is sort of annoying because she has only been following me when I run, and that's about it.
"Your mother says you are going to the beach with Tiffany tomorrow," Cliff says, and then smiles like men sometimes do when they are talking about women and sex.
"I'm going with Ronnie and Veronica and baby Emily too. The whole point is to take Emily to the beach because she did not get to go much this summer and it will be cold soon. Little kids love the beach, Cliff."
"Are you excited about going?"
"Sure. I guess. I mean, I'll have to get up super early to get a good workout in and finish when we come home, but – "
"What about seeing Tiffany in a bathing suit?"
I blink several times before I grasp what he has said to me.
"You said before that she has a nice body," Cliff adds. "Are you looking forward to seeing it? Maybe she will wear a bikini. What do you think?"
I feel mad for a second – because my therapist is sort of being disrespectful – but then I realize Cliff is testing my morals again, making sure I am fit to be out of the mental institution, so I smile, nod, and say, "Cliff, I'm married, remember?"
He nods back wisely and winks, making me feel like I passed the test.
We talk a little more about how I made it through a whole week without having an episode, which is evidence that the drugs are working, according to Cliff – because he doesn't know I spit at least half of the pills into the toilet – and when it is time for me to go, Cliff says, "I just have one more thing to say to you."
He shocks me by jumping to his feet, throwing both hands in the air, and yelling "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
So I jump to my feet, throw both hands in the air, and yell "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" too.
"E!-A!-G!-L!-E!-S! EAGLES!" we chant in unison, spelling the letters with our arms and legs, and suddenly I am so happy.
Cliff predicts a 21 – 14 Eagles victory as he walks me out of his office, and after I agree with his prognosis, we enter the waiting room and my mother says, "Were you two just doing the Eagles chant?"
Cliff raises his eyebrows and shrugs his shoulders at my mother, but when he turns to walk back into his office, he begins whistling "Fly, Eagles, Fly," at which point I know that I am seeing the best therapist in the entire world.
On the drive home, my mother asks me if Cliff and I talked about anything other than Eagles football during the therapy session, and instead of answering her question, I say, "Do you think that Dad will start talking to me at night if the Eagles beat the Giants?"
Mom frowns, grips the steering wheel a little harder. "The sad reality is he might, Pat. He really might," she says, and I start to get my hopes up.