After All This Time
To love is to burn, to be on fire. – Jane Austen
Charlie crushes back into the dirty bean bag chair in front of the TV glow. I watch him from the hall outside his and Piper’s bedroom. He either doesn’t see me through the partially opened door or he just doesn’t give a shit. Either way, I’m golden; I can take in the creature in its natural habitat at my own pace; I can look at this kid who is half me- maybe more, hopefully more- and I can shove putty into a few of the gaping voids that let in the rain and the snow and that godawful howling wind.
It’s weird. With nothing but his mere existence/ my youngest bio kid can pick his nose/ eat a booger/ stare at the Trolls World Tour movie that he’s so hot about/ all the while offering his old man a subtle but powerful transcendence. It’s as if he’s flipping a burger down at McDonald’s but he’s also controlling the universe.
It hurts me a lot to see where I have been when I look at his wild bowl cut swooping down into his eyes. Within the tender tough of my dad moves: squeezing his little feet/ pinching his ear while he’s sitting in my lap trying to watch the movie/ kissing his scalp/ the drifting tones of beechnut grove/ the sunbaked straw/ the smoky ham hanging on the country store porch/ the river mud dog tracks I lift up to my nose like flowers/ within all that: I guess: is the slash of burning that I smell all the time.
The wires smoldering before the true, true blaze.
Something lurking back in the safe, smooth walls.
When I was his age, Charlie’s age, 8 going on 9, I witnessed the dissolution of my own parent’s marriage. Right before my eyes, I saw things that made no sense and yet I understood completely. The grown man drunk/ asleep on his dinner plate. The woman dripping cry-snot onto her wrist, onto mine sometimes. The hollering. The screaming. The violence and the chasing me down. People acting like savages. People running from things they would never really escape.
I look in on Charlie and I think I could coerce him out of there with a promise of something that costs money. Maybe a trip to Sheetz for a milkshake or a Suicide. Maybe I promise him Arms, the video game he’s been bugging me about for a while now. I don’t though. I only stand there being ignored. Taking it all in. The kid with his finger jammed up his nostril. The supreme rook of it all, of all this parenting shit. Me: a sucker for his every move. Him: a con man on the take. Back behind him is a dog food bag that I cut into a big shirt for him the other day. It makes me happy.
Eventually, I have to roll. He spots me in the doorway and the air changes. His eyes look me up and down and I can tell he’s not so into my presence. He was vibing and now it died.
So I roll out/ the TV glow wrapped around my son like a daddy’s arms.