Doce

Twelve years ago, we were laying together in my bed, your head on my chest, not asleep so much as suspended, paused, an inhalation of time

    held

      and held

         and held

until you father said something or the other, what it was doesn't matter at all, and you turned your head all the way around until you faced him. Your bright blue eyes flickered open, reseting the clock on ours lives, and you didn't say a word, or even make a sound, you just looked at his voice.

You were four minutes old.

Babies aren't supposed to do that, you know

I knew you the second I met you in that hospital bed in that birthing suite in that city at 5,280 feet up into the sky. I didn't just know you like, "Oh, he looks enough like his father that I don't think we'll have to eat this one" know you, I knew you like I wasn't at all surprised today when you came home from birthday shopping with a cross-stitching kit instead of Legos. I knew you like I know when you're in your room crying at night. I knew you like I do every single second of the day that I cannot ever unhear the pounding of your tiny, precious little heartbeat.

You were the first person I'd ever met in my life that I felt that familiarity with, and it was the most comforting feeling I've ever know, knowing without any doubt that I was meant for this person, and he for me, in some unseeable, indefinable way. If you decide to believe in magic, it's because we are both Pisces, and so we've done this a few times already, and if you decide to believe in science, it's just that you got a little more of my electro-genetic batter in the bowl, and if you end up believing in a God, it's because He was looking out for us and made sure that we had each other. 

I am never going to be able to answer the how, and I probably will never answer the why, but you - simply by existing - have undone more damage than you will ever fathom could be done to another person. You sitting across a table from me, flaring your Angry Nostrils just to make me laugh, has covered multitudes and multitudes of other people's sins. The hardest thing I ever had to let go of was my faith, and your being gave it back to me thousand-fold. 

You made me believe in something well beyond myself, or this world, or any other thing made of man.

You are twelve years old.

Children aren't supposed to do that, you know

Undequadraginta

I love this picture because of everything it isn't.

It isn't anywhere close to the best picture I've taken.

It's blurry

                  It's grainy

          The colors are all off

                           Oh my god, the sneakers.

But when I look at this, all I can see is the sound of laughter in the air, the feel of cold on my skin. I see, with crystal clarity, one gloriously perfect moment that flew past you both so fast it bent and blurred the world in its wake.

In that fleeting moment, I see you. I see you joyous, and I wish you 39 more years of it.

Six now, forever and ever.

Three nights ago you wept in your bed, crying over the unfairness of all of this happening to you. "I can't grow up, mom. Five is my favorite number."

Five was my favorite number, too. I used to tell you that five was the perfect age to be, because it was just enough to grab your face with and smush it. Five was also the perfect number to hold your little baby foot with.

Still crazy after all these years

Your foot isn't so baby little anymore. Nothing about you is. You learned how to say 'th' this year and I can't believe that I am the kind of person who could spend all day listening to a child say tha-ree! but it truly is the most beautiful sound in the word, you soaking in the world and wringing out little bits for the rest of us to taste. One of the many things you've taught me about myself that I never would have guessed on my own is that there is nothing I would rather do with my days than listen to you sound out the world around you.

I imagine you on the school playground with your friends learning how to jump rope and braid hair. You come home and you tell me all the things the other little girls have taught you and I wonder what you're teaching them in return. You know so much more than I ever could have imagined you would, so much more than I ever did at your age. 

At the same time, you know nothing that I knew when I was six, and I don't think I'll ever be given a greater gift than that. I have to lie to you so often about my childhood, because the stories you do hear are so far from fathomable, they frighten you.  You with your magical little ways have taught me somthing I guessed all along, that any story can become truth if it is simply told enough times. You are making the stories I wish I could tell you come alive every time you make me re-write the oral history of my life and whisper it sweetly into your sleepy ears.  

You ask my why I love you so much and I reply why, of course it's your giggle, except when it is your hugs, but of course when it isn't your smile, and only when it isn't the way your beautiful little mind works. I tell you that I love you today, and I will love you every day of your life, because I have to, the same way I have to breath in and out. You ask if I will ever stop loving you and I tell you that loving you is the air around me and inside of me, in my veins and my lungs and the very fiber of my being and that my love for you is what has made me a complete person. 

Six years ago, right off of 9th and Colorado in Denver, you with your collapsed lung and prolapsed cord, born purple and raging if for no other reason than to scare the living shit out of your brother on the very first moment of your aquaintance, you breathed life into a woman you hardly knew but who had been waiting her entire life to meet you. I held you all night that night, watching you sleep for the first time.

Sleepy

Every night since then has felt exactly the same way. I can never escape the wonder of you, and I don't ever want to. Every day with you has been as amazing as the first day you came into my life, because you continue to be the most incredible creature this world has ever known.

My favorite number will always ever be whichever you are, little girl, forever and ever, amen.

Many

Of course I had the Brookview nightmare this morning. 

I haven't had a Brookview nightmare in so long, I forgot what they were like. This one was so strange, so fucking obscure, so ninja-like that I hardly noticed the signs of what was coming. Do your dreams give you warnings, too? That stretch of Governor Prinz Boulevard that turns inland right before the Philadelphia Pike exit, the right turn onto Chesnut Drive from Veale Road, those are my 'Turn Back Now' signs that white people always inexplicably ignore in the movies, and I always do in my dreams, until it is too late.

What does it mean that my warning signs are always in a car, that they always, literally, lead me to that place? If your degree could only explain that to me, it will have been worth the price tag.

I dreamed that present-day me was in the car with one of the leaders of my old church. We were on our way to visit his wife in their home. We talked about the tattoo he regretted getting, and I tried to explain why I didn't regret mine. He was nice until we passed those apartments right before the bend, then the conversation turned - not mean, just serious. Then he got my age really wrong, and I realized that maybe he, or I, wasn't on the level. Then he kind of implied that I would be back again. Then he opened his front door, (the one he, in reality, doesn't live in, the one in Brookview) and I accepted his invitation to enter the bad part of the dream.

The interesting thing about my nightmares is that, even on a subconscious level, I look for the best situations - I seek something I can walk away from that makes them sting less. Like the fact that the homemade, cedar table with the wooden stirrups they were going to strap me to when they took my baby from me had pink, fluffy blankets and the exact kind of yellow and pink fuzzy slippers I like the best - the kind I buy at airports when my flight gets delayed. In the third of a second before I ran, I thought, "Well, jeez, at least they care enough to make sure I'm comfortable and warm."

Unlocked doors, an old car, a gate, sunlight, pavement. Hot, black, sweating pavement. The same pavement that is always in this dream. Pavement that laid five minutes between my house and my grandmother's. Pavement I don't ever want to know why I keep running across.

Pavement you stood on, it just was piled up alongside what used to be a road. 

That used to be the house I lived in.

There is something comforting in knowing that someone took a fucking wrecking ball and tore the source of your nightmares right fucking asunder. That nature came along and zeroed out everything you thought could never be haulted. Standing in the middle of that was a thousand times more healing than all the dreams I used to have of watching my old house gurgle and spit and drown beneath a mudslide. 

The neighborhood swimming pool. really.

Looks kind of pretty now, (don't you think, in an urban decay sort of way?) that place where my brother and I died over and over again.

And I never would have known that if it wasn't for you. I never would have had the chance to go back there and stand in the middle of that if you hadn't been willing to drive me out of your way on a whim, to help me break through a fence, to drive a car not rented in my name over my hills and far away to a place that doesn't exist anymore, except in my dreams that can no longer resolve, because the faster I run, the less real that pavement feels under my feet. Because it doesn't exist anymore.

And somehow, that has something to do with you.

Today is your birthday. The day we took those pictures was mine, in a way. You're the only person I've ever shown this part of myself to, and I'm trying to learn how to balance the person I want you to think I am against the person you now know I am. 

I know you like lemon squares and you know the smell of the dumpster I used to play in. I once watched you break yourself against a fighter's glove, and you've seen me break in two in the middle of a creek and beside a pile of old concrete quickly becoming a field of dreams.  

It means something that you, who pulled me out of what I thought I was going to be and into what it turns out I am, are the one person to cross the imaginary line I drew in the sand in 1992 between that life and this one. So, of course that line is going to blur on your birthday, because you're a part of that field, that story, that life, now.

Maybe you always were. 

Past Future Perfect

I carried you under my skin and muscle and bone and flesh and I imagined counting the wrinkles of your hands, the crevices in between your fingers and your toes. I stared at the floor without blinking once until all the tiles swirled around and whirled into each other and when everything else was gone I was certain I could see your stocking feet pittering across the floor. When you pressed so hard against my body that I could see you tiny hand raise away from me, I would dig into my muscle to grab it and squeeze as hard as I was able so I could catch a glimpse of what it would be like to hold you.

I can't unremember that hand.

I cannot account for you in anything but centimeters and heartbeats.

I ran my hands across the crystal ball that housed you safe and warm inside of me and I dreamed visions of you a child, soft and wide eyed and wondrous. I dreamed you a man, dark and bold and tall. I dreamed you all the things I never was and never will be.

I never dreamed of this.

I cannot account for you in anything but lullabies and sonograms.

I held you every day, measuring your growth against my bones, laid bare for you. I whispered truths into your perfect ears while you slept - that you were a God, the beginning and the end, moving mountains with mustard seeds. I wrapped my battered hands around your angelic face and memorized you with every one of my senses so that I could never lose you. You push against me and I pull into you as we waltz across the rooms of our life together.

I could not recognize your hand the last time we crossed a street together.

I cannot account for you any longer.

Last night, I woke you up at 15 minutes until midnight to say my goodbyes. I climbed into your bed and stared into your sleepy eyes and thanked you for a wonderful yea...a wonderful stage of your life. I said the same words I have and will say to you every April 13th at your bedtime, that I cannot imagine a life without you, but I cannot wait to meet you new in the morning. You smiled at me the way you have and will every April 13th at your bedtime, that I have done right by you and you know with everything you are that you are truly loved.

I wrapped my battered hands around your angelic face and tried for a moment to memorize you with every one of my senses so that I would never lose you, and when I kissed your wondrous, wide eyed face for the last time I realized that the man you are becoming is greater than anything I ever could have dreamed, because you are everything I never was and never will be.

Happy 13th birthday, my son.
Portrait of a Teenager