“Who’s your favorite singer, Daddy?”
“You guys, of course. You and your sister,” I say.
They both smile, and the light of the day comes to their faces. I watch them take on breath, soft words popping from sweet lips, both right on key. Their cotton hearts are glued to the sugary tone of a song they do not understand. They only know they enjoy the way it makes their faces, the tops of their cheeks filling with joy, rising toward their eyes. They wouldn’t always be this way.
My babies notice my watchful clock and revel in its ardor as they dance on bruised knees in torn clothes. A performance just for me, a desire to please their father, to make a smile across my face that hangs like the moon. I feel a sullen proudness that sinks my baby blues down to the corners of my mouth. I watch them watch one another, smiling, best friends. It’s just the three of us, and it’s the best show I’ve ever seen, and I love them so.
My other love, my pain, my very same page (our page, page 36; it was only for us, not necessary for others to understand), she remains above us in a bed that’s warm on only one side from the night before. Sometimes I say things, then she says things. We go quiet. She goes up, I stay down, boiling over like a pot of angel hair with no room to breathe. Her…I don’t know. I’ve never asked. I only know she’s not with me. She’s lying next to the cold of my absence, stretching out across the whole of the bed, enjoying the freedom. I pretend not to care, convince myself by making foolish faces into thin air. I mumble self-assuring diatribes to protect the need to be justified while pacing back and forth searching for a reason to let it all go, to bring it all back. The writing tries but there’s always pause. Over and over again I turn in my pale chair, look up at the top of the stairs. She’s not there. She’s not looking down at me with words quivering to cleanse. She’s never there. For her some time is necessary. She’s fast asleep while I twist and turn.
The night passes by with lonely thoughts. I distract myself with film; the mindless kind. I only want things to be soft again, because I love her more than I wished sometimes, but only because of the pain, only because of the shame. There’s never been another like it, not for anyone, never of any other time. It’s nuclear, and it wipes out the world. I believe that to be as much as I believe in the day and the night, the birth and the death.
I awake on the couch, the sun scratching at my face though half a shade. I was supposed to have fixed those blinds. They weren’t working properly one day so I pulled. My frustrations won, the blinds snapped, and the bottom half fell flat. I was angry from who knows what, just a feeling sometimes, origin unknown. Maybe there’s things, memories of former days, or maybe I didn’t eat enough. Maybe someday it’ll go away, maybe it won’t.
I sit up on the couch, eager to make amends. It’s a Saturday at 6am, make some coffee, then sit again. I enjoy those first few quiet minutes, waiting. The smell of the beans then the first sip, and I forget. So fulfilling, so brief. The second sip never tastes quite as good, and I remember. Somehow the kids always know when my eyes arrive. I sigh, mourning the death of such beautiful silence, then smile and grab hold of them; good morning and a kiss. And I’m no longer angry.
I know the days clock, I know the time. She’ll be down soon, off to work; so much more to her than wife and mother. I’ll bring coffee up with cinnamon and cream. She always appreciates that. So I put on the tube for the little ones, and climb the stairs with a handful of steam, a gesture of peace. I smile on the way, because I know, and she knows. The excitement builds in my chest as I open the door. I regret not sleeping next to her. Her eyes open and she turns. We smile, agreeing without a word. Because no matter how strong the winds that turn the page, we always find our way back to 36.