Rain. I hate the rain. Why always
the rain? It makes me feel like swearing. It makes
me feel like saying a word--almost any word--so many times that
it loses its meaning and
its appeal. I don't have an umbrella and I have ten more blocks.
Why I felt the need to ruin another
friendship I don't know. Dusty doesn't know it yet
but our friendship is ruined. I can't be friends with him now. I'll
always be thinking that
we did it, that he had me, that I had him, or something like this.
I’ll see his face sucking
at my breasts, I’ll see his face between my legs instead of
just out there in the world. I’ll
see his face and it will mean more than I want it to mean.
Stew has a full set of toddler teeth.
He’ll bite you with them, if you let him. I don’t
recommend you let him. It hurts like hell.
It's the phone and I know it's Dusty,
as if Dusty has his own ring, as if this is just the
moment I’ve been expecting Dusty to call. He’s supposed
to be spending quality dad time
with Stew down at the diner and they're supposed to be sharing a
milkshake but instead
Dusty is on the phone because he can't stay there with the kid because
he’s screwing it up
again, he says. He's getting too weirded out thinking this is his
kid and this is her kid and
he doesn't want the kid to see him break down into little Dusty
pieces and can she just
come pick the kid up so he doesn’t totally lose it right here
in the diner in front of the
"Get a fucking grip," I
"I can't," he says. "I
just can't do it."
"Would you take a Paxil
or something and stop this bullshit? He’s not a monster you
he’s your son."
I hang up and put on a windbreaker
that’s going to get soaked in all the goddamn rain
that never seems to stop pouring from the godawful sky, and I stomp
out of the apartment
and he knows I'll be down there even though I hung up on him like
that. It's five blocks
from my apartment to the diner. Dusty is standing outside the diner
and when I get near
him I think I'm going to tear his face right the hell off because
I know Stew is inside
alone with his milkshake and a glass of water and some saltines
and he doesn’t
understand about his father and I can’t explain it to him
because I don’t understand it
"Could you be more of a son of
a bitch?" I say.
"Yeah," he says, and he's
right. He could. At least he's honest.
I look at him sometimes and I wonder
how we got here, how he got to be so huge.
“How did you get so huge?” I ask him. And he turns on
me and says, “Mom, I’m not
huge. I’m just a little kid.” And I tell him, “You
don’t know what the hell you’re talking
about.” And he says, “Mom, you know you aren’t
supposed to say hell to me like that.
You told me to tell you when you say that and you have to stop it.”
And I feel like laying
one on him. The kiss that never ends. And he’s drawing a picture
for me. It looks like it
might be a flower. Or a tree. Or a Mayan ruin.
We're here for Stew’s recital.
It's all I can do to sit beside the man, but I do it for
Stew. Why wouldn't I? I can be adult for both of us, if necessary.
"He's really good," says
"That's what they say."
"No, I mean it. He's astounding. Even
if he weren't ours, you know, I mean, that was
just incredible. I have goosebumps."
We're applauding now, all of us, the whole
room full of us, and Dusty and I are
standing and applauding, trying to see over the big hair in front
of us. We're applauding
and standing on tiptoes and we're crying. And the row in front of
us is ecstatic, and I want
to stop each of them in turn and tell them that’s Stewart,
my son, and they’re applauding
for Stewart but we call him Stew, or I do, I call him that and it
reminds me of something
to eat, something you put all you have into and simmer all day and
don’t really appreciate
until the next day, when it’s better. It’s always better
the next day.
But they stop applauding before we do.
Before Dusty and I do. And they sit and
we’re still standing.
We look at each other and he's smiling
and that's just it, isn't it? I feel like we're
married or something. I feel like Stew is really both of ours and
this is the only time this
feeling has happened to me, that Stew has seemed more than just
my son--someone else’s
son besides just mine--and I wonder if Dusty is having this same
feeling. How is this
possible? All he’s doing is standing there applauding like
the rest of the room was
applauding, except the rest of the room has hushed now and we should
be hushed now
but we aren’t. I think, this is just about how long a
marriage should last. Just these few
seconds before we sit down.
So we sit down.
I say, "I gave up swearing for Lent."
He says, "I'm taking the seven o'clock
I say, "Jesus, that's in an hour."
He says, "I didn't know you were Catholic."
I say, "You're never going to make
it downtown in an hour."
He says, "Okay. You’re right.
Anyway, I was thinking Dim Sum in the morning. I'm
Look at that stupid grin on his face. He
thinks I’m going to fall in love with him. But
I’ll end up hating him and that will be just like old times,
won’t it? Just like a few
minutes ago. An hour, maybe. He’s wearing me down again, and
for the first time I don’t
give a damn.
He’s holding my hand though I don’t
remember him taking it and maybe he’s been
holding it ever since we stopped applauding. We’re listening
to whoever’s next but it’s
not like we’re actually listening, it’s a kind of hearing
where you simply appreciate
what’s happening to the air around you--it’s vibrating
in a pleasant way--and you just sort
of know it’s a pleasant experience based on the context. Everyone
else seems to be
enjoying themselves. So you must be enjoying yourself.
Stew has gone to sit with the small group
of musicians and he seems very much a part
of that small group and very much separate from us. It feels to
me as if the entire room is
still lit up with his music, as if all the attention is still deservedly
being paid to him.
I'm crying harder now and still holding
Dusty’s hand. But I can hold his hand and cry
without anybody noticing. Because I’ve done it before and
I know how it’s done, and it’s
nobody’s business. This is between me and Dusty and the vibrating
air. I don’t know how
this has come about, but I’m almost positive when we leave
the building, it will be
raining. This has taken me awhile to figure out. All of this. But
I think I’ve got it now.
Just for now. Do you feel it? Do you know what I mean?