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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…

howl

Late on a Sunday night a wind whips through the city. Limbs thwack against the windows of the balcony. They say more than thirty trees were uprooted in the last week. I imagine green buds on branches dropping to the dry earth below. The baby sleeps. N is turned half on her side, her glasses still on, her eyes closed. I pull the bedroom door closed very slowly, turning the handle so it does not squeak. 

There are voices from next door, traveling through the walls, passing around the windows maybe the wind helping them reach us. Between the howls and the curtains flipping around I hear a woman. She is crying out. She is wailing about her life, her disappointment. I hear something slapping against the wall in-between our apartments, hoping it is just her hand. E runs to the kitchen. I ask if she can understand what the argument is about. A man's voice reaches us next, completely calm, in low rumbling sentences. E shakes her head no. 

The woman is shrieking. There are electric silences between the sounds she produces. I wiggle my head, suggesting we go to the living room. E is nervous. We go through her school bag, making sure she has everything for tomorrow. She gets into bed and I throw the top blanket out in the air, and it floats evenly across her. She smiles up at me. I am glad she does not remember all of the screaming when she was a baby, or that it feels so foreign to her now. There was a time when we were those neighbors. 

E finds sleep. I wander the rooms, now cracking the door seeing the humidifier pumping out a consistent cloud in the bedroom, N in the same position, V on her stomach, hands curled. The fight continues next door. I guess the woman is talking to her mother now. 

The wind howls. 

I see someone with a tiny dog downstairs. They are running in the darkness.




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