Flipside: On the loose

By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
November 30, 2006 11:52

 
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"And just where do you think you're going?" Dan asks, barely audibly, catching his daughter in mid-door-slam. "Out," Roni says matter-of-factly, though feeling less secure than she sounds. "Oh, no you're not," Dan insists quietly, shaking his head and ushering her back inside. "Why not?" Roni whines, stamping her foot, tantrum-style, while picking a fleck of mascara out of the corner of her eye. "We already discussed this," Dan answers, his voice still on an even keel, albeit at a higher decibel level than before. "No we did not discuss anything," Roni yells, emphasizing the word "we" with particular disgust. "You made an unfair unilateral decision and imposed it on me without my consent." Dan takes a deep breath. When, he wonders, had his little girl turned into a terrible teen with the foul mouth of a lawyer? "It may be unilateral," Dan admits. "But it's certainly not unfair." "Oh yeah?" Roni challenges, lacquered hands on bare hips. "Then give me one good reason for it." "I've already given you two good reasons," Dan asserts, determined to get through this scene without having to interrupt his wife's meeting to ask her what he's supposed to do now. "Too bad for you, then," Roni sneers. "Because I've already finished my homework for the rest of the week." "That doesn't change the fact that it's a school night," Dan says, wishing to be done with the confrontation so that he can resume watching the soccer game. "That's so lame," Roni retorts. "I go to bed past midnight anyway." "That's hardly the point," Dan says, distracted momentarily by loud cheering emanating from the TV, a sure sign that someone has scored. "So you admit that there's no point whatsoever," Roni says, satisfied that she's making headway. There are two things in her favor: her father's desire to get back to the game, and his less-than-airtight arguments, soon-to-be-whittled away, she believes, by her perseverance. "End of discussion," Dan declares, sounding more defiant than decisive. "Who says so?" Roni sing-songs, sounding more shrill than sure of herself. "I say so," Dan says, trying to stare her down to size. "Well, you're not the only person here, are you?" Roni protests. "I'm the only person here with the authority to make the decision," Dan shoots back. "That's undemocratic!" Roni screams, making an effort not to cry. "This is not a democracy," Dan announces - the second time today he has made that statement, though in a completely different context - and from an opposite position. The first was at a Kadima branch meeting, during which Dan bemoaned the party's system of candidate selection and decision-making. The irony doesn't escape him. Where his personal life is concerned, he would gladly rescind Roni's right to lobby, campaign or vote. Especially this week, with Benny Sela on the loose. Having his daughter sashaying around the streets of Tel Aviv with a serial rapist lurking God knows where is simply out of the question. No ifs, ands or buts about it. "But Daddy," Roni whimpers (calling him this is usually a last-resort ploy, but she is in a hurry to meet up with her girlfriends in front of Dizengoff Center), "I'll be the only one not going. Why are you always so mean when Mom isn't home?" DAN SIGHS. This is the point in the conversation at which he would normally consider whether he isn't being unnecessarily strict. Hearing what other parents are allowing will do that. In this case, however, he is unflappable. The prospect of his daughter's falling prey to a pervert will do that. "It's for your own good," he says, wishing he were one of those people who didn't feel the need to justify every policy to his subordinates. As though, somehow, his unpopular moves would be excused - if only they could be explained to everyone's satisfaction. He remembers repeatedly warning Roni, when she was much younger, about picking up objects off the sidewalk. Not wanting to frighten her - or curb her charming curiosity by lacing it with anxiety - he couldn't bring himself to tell her that terrorists' bombs were being planted in all kinds of unlikely packages. Instead, he told her that it wasn't safe to touch things that might be germ-infested. The element of truth to his lie gave it that much more credibility. It also made him seem a bit on the hysterical side. Just like now. "You're being irrational!" Roni hisses. "And I'm going, whether you like it or not." Dan grabs Roni by the wrist, pulls her away from the door. This he locks and removes the key. "The only place you're going right now is to your room," Dan says, angrily. "This is child abuse!" Roni wails at the top of her lungs. "And I'm going to lodge a complaint against you!" Dan imagines the police shackling him with extra care - and additional cuffs - so as not to repeat their Benny Sela blunder. This time, they won't let the prisoner escape, no matter what. "OK, but can you wait till the game is over?" Dan requests, hoping to diffuse the tension with a little teasing. But Roni is not amused. "All you care about is that stupid soccer game," she growls. "You don't care about me, or about ruining my life." "Actually, I'm trying to save your life," Dan says, lowering his head. He hates having Roni mad at him. Even more than that, he detests her putting him in the position of having to convey the message that the world is an unfriendly place. "That's such bull," she groans. "You read one dumb study about kids' needing at least 10 hours of sleep at night, and you freak out." "That's not true!" Dan cries, ready to describe to her the dastardly, ever-lasting effects of rape on a woman's psyche - the details of which he is privy to daily at the trauma center where he works as a psychologist. But he stops himself. "I don't 'freak out.' I just don't like seeing you with bags under your eyes, that's all." ruthie@jpost.com

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