Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stale Air: Acceptance - Part Five

My son takes his first nap before we go out into the wintering street. The fridge is full of lunch options and I try to think up something that will be done before he gets up. The bright yellow leaves hanging from the wooden plant stand stops me in mid-motion before I quickly grab a container of water. I always forget to water the plant he gave me for my 29th birthday. I tried getting rid of it, but it was so full of life and beauty, and I felt the need to hold on to something that grew with time. Perhaps I’ve forgotten that the plant has a life and a history outside of our broken bond. It's clear to me that our relationship has turned into a dried up fruitless tree, but the feeling doesn't stick. With lunch simmering on the stovetop, I move onto the hallway and try to quietly pack his things into his favorite stroller. I am almost tempted to list all of the things I couldn't change about the past and post them on the fridge door, the wall behind the bed, and on the apartment exit door. I think about the many times I had to talk him into spending time with us. The former reluctant father and husband is now out there molding a new life, and I am struggling to remind myself that I too have to go back to that awful drawing board. I've decided that Saturdays will be my son's day. I start with him because I have to rethink my own gratification, and structured time with him relieves the guilt of my absence during the weekday. After an hour he is still sleeping, so I make myself a plate of quinoa and veggies, and pour myself a cold glass of apple cider. I carry the steaming plate and cold glass using one arm, and use the other to get through the safety gate and into the living room table. I sit down, give thanks, and eat. It will take some time before I forget the void. But for now, even the complex and noisy thoughts of one person seems too little to fill the still air of this apartment.

I remember when I had first put up the new dark red curtains and rolled out the matching large area rug in the living room floor. The kitchen was filled with new dinnerware, and the future spirit of a walking toddler ran inside my head. I wanted the new open space to reflect the warmth I felt inside. It was only weeks before he would fly in from California for his big move and be able to feel his unborn son kicking inside me. The living room now seems to occupy two spaces; a dimension of promise, paralleling one of despair. My son calls me from the bedroom and I walk in as he stands in his crib, smiling, with his hands reaching at me. "Tienes hambre?" I ask him. He rubs his eyes as I carry him out of the crib, and watches the hallway turn into the kitchen. "Pata!" he says, looking at the stovetop filled with cooked food. With him in my arm, I make a small serving in his bright orange plastic bowl, and mash the food with a fork. I feed us both with him on my lap, and try to keep him from tumbling empty cups and magazines from the table. Next to my own lament stands the gratuitous feeling that I won't have to raise my son in the chaos of the old household, the echo of my own childhood. I feel the sense of privilege my mother never had, to leave a failing marriage before it had failed my life, and my son's childhood. I try to go back to the drawing board, but all I can see is what's in front of me. He starts to push himself out of my lap and onto the ground towards his toys. I bring our plates into the kitchen sink and merely soak them in water.

"Nos vamos!" I blurt out at him.

"Mabo!" he shouts back.

I open the gate and he stomps giggling towards the bedroom. I dress him up, put on his coat, and strap him into his stroller. I put on my own coat and scarf, and as I open the door and push the stroller out, he shouts his more recent new phrase, "buh bye!"

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