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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

eight (heart on a plate)

"I like the number nine more than the number eight." E announces in the dim morning walk to school. "So maybe I could be nine today."
"How come?" I ask.
"Because eight looks like my shoelaces and they always come untied." She explains.

Upstairs, I leave a bag with twenty-five juice boxes and forty-nine homemade chocolate chip cookies for her school birthday party. The room is empty. Two girls run in, sliding across the floor in their mary janes. E is chirping away, explaining what kind of cookies we made. The girls are smiling and staring at the dad who cooks. 

I kiss E on the forehead and head home.


The dry ingredients meet the wet ones, and then the blueberries. The cake cooks for forty minutes and the house smells like a giant muffin. The rooms get clean. A little bit of work gets done and then it is time to go back and get her, to trudge through the half-shoveled snow through tiny crooked paths, to put on a pot of pasta water and warm up those meatballs and sauce for a fast lunch. 

We hover over the bowls afterwards, smacking our lips.
"Pop, look." E says, pointing at her near-empty dish.
"Good job." I answer. "Almost the whole thing."
"No." She says, pointing. "It made a heart."
I look, a laugh jumping out of my mouth.
"We made a heart." I correct her.
She smiles with an odd sort of satisfaction.






After the guests have come and gone, after the waves of food are eaten and the plates are piled in a mess of paper and plastic, after the pinata we made is forced piece by piece into a garbage bag, we sit in the room without talking.
"It was a good party, Pop." E tells me after a while.
I can hear N in the kitchen starting to wash some dishes.
E reaches out, and hugs me for some time.
"I'm gonna go to sleep now." She whispers.
"After you brush your teeth." I whisper back.
She walks to the kitchen and I hear her saying something to N.
I close my eyes and let out a long breath. It is time to put leftovers in containers, to toss bags of trash down the chute in the hallway, to drink one cup of black tea and tuck E in, to lay down on my back and snore before my head touches the cool pillow.




Comments

liv said…
I hope you rest well, Marco, knowing that so much good comes of your hard work.

She is absolutely beautiful!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Eva and also to you, Marco - good poppa.

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