you're back



You're Back

I was out for a walk with the boys the other day.
I saw a man jaywalk.
He was tall, with shoulders like shelves and a thick head of dark blond hair.
He wore a navy blue North Face shell that flapped open
as he kicked through the orange leaves in the street in front of the children's bookstore.
I stopped dead.

Me: Matt?

(The man looks over his shoulder at me.
He grins.)

Him: Katie!

Me: Matt! Oh my God! Oh my GOD! You're here!

Him: I'm here!

Me: I can't believe it! I haven't seen you since--

Him: -- since right before Buster was born. That was the last time... wait, is this him?

Me: This is him. Baby Buster.

Him: (crouches down in front of the double stroller) Wow, not a baby anymore! Hey buddy! (Looks up at me, holds up the blade of his hand against the low, bright October sun.) He's amazing.

Me: All 28 pounds of him. Listen, about the last time I saw you, I wanted to say I'm sorry--

Him: (He waves me off, water under the bridge. Then, to Buster) I remember when you were still inside your mama's belly, big guy. (To Chicken) And you! Chicken! How old are you now, seventeen?

Chicken: (grinning shyly into his shoulder, holds up 3 fingers.)

Him: I thought you were a lot older. You like having a little brother?

(Chicken doesn't answer.)

Me: Chicken, this is our friend Matt. He worked with Daddy awhile back. I haven't seen him in a long time, and I didn't even know he was back. How long have you been back?

Him: Awhile now. It was crazy. So incredible. Saw a lot of friends and family. Saw a lot. But home is home, you know?

Me: Yeah. Yeah... I'm sorry! I can't think of anything to say except, just, wow! I'm shell-shocked! I can't believe you're here, on the street, in broad daylight, with me. Honestly, I didn't think I was ever going to see you again.

Him: A lot of people did. But as it turns out, this is where I'm supposed to be. Things work out.

Me: I guess so. So... where are you living? Are you working? What are you doing?

Him: I'm settling in again. I spend a lot of time walking around, getting my bearings, asking myself the big questions.

Me: The kinds of questions you only really get to ask when you're starting over, right?

Him: Exactly.

Me: Hey! I still have the books you lent me.

Him: Oh, yeah! The Tipping Point, right?

Me: And some others. We cleaned out our books a little while ago, and I set them aside. I didn't know why at the time. But here you are, so I guess things do work out! We live just up the street. Do you want to come back and grab them? Have a glass of wine?

Him: I'm on my way out, actually. But let's get together soon. I want to get to know your boys. Remember what I told you the last time?

Me: All the time. It is so good to see you, Matt.

Him: You too! Bye Chicken! Bye Buster!

___

I was out for a walk with the boys the other day.
I saw a man jaywalk.
He was tall, with shoulders like shelves and a thick head of dark blond hair.
He wore a navy blue North Face shell that flapped open
as he kicked through the orange leaves in the street in front of the children's bookstore.
I stopped dead.

Me: Matt?

(The man looked over his shoulder at me.
He kept walking.)

Chicken: Who's Matt?

Me: That man looked exactly like my friend Matt.

Chicken: Is it him?

Me: No, baby. Matt's gone.

Chicken: Is he coming back?

Me: No, baby. He can't. But sometimes I like to imagine he could.

Chicken: Why?

Me: Because... a lot of reasons. Because gone is really hard to understand. And I'd like to tell him I'm sorry.

Chicken: Why are you sorry?

Me: I saw him the week before he left, but I didn't go see him again, even though he asked me to. I was about to have baby Buster, and it was just too hard to look at Matt, who was very sick, and know that he was someone's baby boy too. I'd like to see him again, happy and healthy, here in the fresh air and sunshine on a beautiful day, maybe having a cold drink.

(Chicken didn't answer.)

Me: But did you know, the last time I saw him, I knew I might not see him again. Right before I left, I asked him, "is there anything I can do for you?" He said, "take care of those boys." I said, "I will." That means that the last thing Matt and I talked about was you, buddy.

Chicken: And Buster, too!

Me: Yep, and Buster too.

Chicken: Are you taking care of those boys, Mommy?

Me: I'm trying to!

Chicken: You know, I think popsicles would take care of us. Do you think he meant to give us popsicles?

Me: I bet that's exactly what he meant.

2 comments:

  1. This moved me to tears. Beautiful, heartbreaking story.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Liz. This blog post is drenched in tears and bourbon.

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