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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

proof and blankets


She pads to the bedroom door, waiting in silence.
"I can't." E says, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I tried but I can't."
I hold her, then stand with her face burrowed into my shoulder. She slumps against me, and the sounds do come.
I walk the L-shaped hallway, turning in the kitchen, stepping once into the living room to see the moon hanging low outside the windows then back.
"You didn't have a dream?" I ask her quietly.
Her head shakes no.
"I just can't sleep." She mutters, then lets out a sigh.

I sit on the couch, wrap a blanket around both of us and rest her face on my shoulder.
In the silence, I hear her breathing, the rabbit speed of her heart.


It was in autumn, on those first cold nights. The fighting had swollen into all-day affairs. The screaming would overlap cooking dinner, me getting E to sleep, to stomping around in pajamas. The neighbors must have been so tired of this, waiting to see if it would be another night of threats and accusations, of venom and bile.
This is when I stopped sleeping on the couch and graduated to the back seat of the Mini Cooper. I would wrap myself in that giant green blanket and wedge my feet into the space between the front seats. It was cold, my breath hanging in the air. As the sun came up I would sneak back inside to be sure E saw me when she woke, on the couch as if I had been there all night.



When we picked up E on the way back from the airport last week she looked taller to me. Perched in the middle of the back seat she spoke in giant sentences, about a new story she was working on about a girl called Emily Tundlekind. She froze then, realizing she had left the notebook upstairs and would not be able to get it for a few days.

In the living room she danced around my bags, as I pulled out new clothes for her - party dresses and jeans, sweaters and polka dot shirts, scarves and mittens, cartoon underwear and shiny blue boots. 

In the kitchen I produced a giant bag of fresh bagels, slicing two and lighting the oven with a match. 
E held one up close to her face, examining it, sniffing once then again. 
"Smells good." She said, satisfied.
"Smells like home." I added.



We take a walk, to buy groceries.
E is yanking at my arm.
"Pop, look." She says, pointing up.
I look at the sky, expecting to see the moon is still out.
"A birdhouse." She announces.
A laugh jumps out of my mouth. We have lived in this apartment for four years and I never noticed it.

Later, I go into the closets and throw old clothing to the floor. A pile grows, jackets sliding off of jeans, t-shirts and old boots. They will all go downstairs in a bag and someone will take them all within a few minutes.
I want to prove I can let go of things.







Comments

liv said…
That brought a gasp - the picture of E on the escalator. She is changing, growing up. Such a beauty.

Glad you are back safe and sound.

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