Held by the dark, quiet, a shift between us, a hesitant rising... Strongland pushes himself up between us, his head tilts as he peers at his mama. “Mama?”
“Yes baby.” She says.
A small hand points towards the window behind me. “Moon.” I reach out, sweep his hair across his forehead, damp with sweat. He leans to his mama, she lifts him up, sets her feet on the hardwood, and carries him to the doorway from the bedroom to the hallway. Just at the frame of the open door, “Dada?”
I get up and follow them to the front door. Bare feet on freezer-cold concrete slab. We walk to the sidewalk, just us and the darkness, look backwards to the house, an unlit rectangular wash of dull-white paint, like a single unused pillow set on a bed waiting for someone to lay their head down to sleep. Strongland’s loosely folded hand, like a cowboy’s hand in an old western feigns holding a pistol, reaches up and points at the moon, cold dusty-chrome, a lonely ghost, forever shying away from the light of the sun. The sky has not teased nor promised the light of dawn.
Like usual I am the first one to give in to the cold. “Let’s go back in.”
Back into bed. I can hear him nursing. His mama soothes him to sleep.
I am not a religious man. You cannot prove God to me; I have seen too much the other way, that if there was something out there it was more like a devil. But through this boy… I see myself, a plain thing, aware of the halfway mark of my time. I will not offer a prayer, none the way you might know. It’s all I have.
I have already been to the water
I have already seen the sun
I have already breathed the air
I have already eaten my fill and more again from the mother’s hand
I have already walked across the land
I have already spoken and said more than I ought to say
I have heard the sounds of beasts and birds
I have been clean and unclean
I have shut my eyes and seen darkness
I have shut my eyes and have dreamed
I have sat, still, and quiet
I have screamed and whispered
I have seen my own blood, and know my heart beats
And I have waited
I have asked questions
I have searched
And I have found many things
And lost many others
Strongland breaths, lies still, then shifts. An arm across my chest. It won’t last but a short time before his head comes up and he tilts his head in the darkness and says “Mama?” Then he will collapse against her. And she will soothe him. I will lay beside them and continue as close as I can come to prayer.
I will return to the water
I will look again at the sun
I will take deep breaths of air
I will eat again from my mother’s hand
I will walk again the land
I will stay and speak
I will listen for the sounds of beasts and birds
I will become clean and then again become unclean
I will shut my eyes and accept the darkness
I will shut my eyes and welcome what dreams may come to me
I will sit here, still, and quiet
I will scream and I will whisper
I will bleed and feel my heart beat
I will wait again
I will ask my countless questions
I will search
In each of these
I only seek to find Strongland
He still lies against me. His soft hair drawn across my jaw like silk. His skin damp with sweat. His stuffy nasally breathing. I don’t dare move.
Is the swelling water
Is the churning sun
Is the air I breath
Is what I eat from my mother’s hand
Is the earth beneath me
Is why I stay and speak
Is the sound of roaming beasts and birds
Is why I will become clean
Is the darkness I am unafraid of
Is what I see behind the lids of my eyes when I dream
Is the still, and quiet
Is my scream and whisper
Is my heart that bleeds and I feel it beat
Is why I wait
Is the reason for the questions that I ask
Is the reason I search
Is what I found
For then the water and the sun and the air and the land and my words and the beasts and birds and my clean and unclean self and the darkness and my dreams and the stillness and the quiet and my screams and my heart and how it beats and beats and beats and the waiting and the questions and my searching and the things I lost and the things I have found do not equal the significance of being this boy’s father.
He shifts, and rises up and looks across the bed and tilts his head. “Mama?” Outside, the moon has eased on, and the sky has promised the dawn and in that growing light Strongland’s eyes seek mine. “Dada?”
Just then, you might have swayed me towards the existence of God.