You can hear her through the kitchen wall sometimes. She sings scales, then something I guess is Verdi. She is nameless, faceless. There are so many stout old women in musty fur coats tiptoeing across the icy sidewalk when I do go outside. She could be any of them.
I assign something to the moments I hear her, like a comet or a moon circling the little world of our kitchen. She is like the rabbit that hid in our front yard when E was born, a random sign of something significant, but impossible to pin down.
I notice her.
I miss her.
Winter has smothered the day to day, the metronome of the week. E is better, but is resting before I put her back in school. I have left the house for a handful of of hours in the past two weeks, just enough to smell the hard soap smell of the gutter, mixing with sliced cucumbers and diesel as I cram eggs and bread and milk into bags I pull across my shoulder. The cars are still trying to run me over, even when I pass the entrance to a parking lot they pull in front of me and I shake my head at them resisting the urge to thump my fist on the shiny black hood of their Porsche. The man's window is down and he stares back at me as if he is memorizing my face. I will never accept this petty hustling, this shoving match that happens every time I set foot outside our apartment. I remember being a boy, stranded in the middle of nowhere on our farm with no one to play with but my brother. We made attempts at games like baseball, employing a complex army of ghost men who ran bases, stole them and could even get tagged out by other ghost players. A few innings into the process, my brother would hit one way into a hay field and by the time I retrieved it he was gone.
Running to my parents with tears on my cheeks, I would shout about how it wasn't fair for him to do that. They would shrug their shoulders, maybe laugh at me a little. "What did you expect?" They would ask me. "Do you really think the world is supposed to be fair?"
N is at her mother's house. E is fast asleep, her arms twisted in a ballet pose above the blankets. I walk the rooms, a box of her cereal under my arm. I cannot sleep.
All at once, the walls light up. I hear a boom in the direction of the White House. On the balcony, I imagine I will see tanks and explosions. It is just fireworks, flaring into the sky long after the children are asleep. This place is a real fucking Disney Land I tell myself, as the river reflects red pom poms and trickles of white.
Closing the window, the smell of gunpowder and smoke drifts into the room. It isn't a holiday. It isn't Chinese New Years. It is just some random noise and lights for ten minutes on a Saturday night.
I dream of E's mother running across the bedroom and to the balcony as if she is going to jump to her death, but then she catches herself. It does not happen in slow motion. It is all very real. She is wearing all white.