Two Incredible Syllables
It's not until she's gone, off visiting, staying overnight at Baachan's or Grandmas perhaps, that I get really emotional over the sound of her voice. I remember what holding her hand feels like, and I have a hard time wanting anything more than her sitting in my lap, snug beside me, happy and eager to just be close. She plays with the hem on my shorts, or a fold in my shirt, and she smiles. She doesn't like t when I tuck her hair behind her ear. She pulls it back out without giving me as much as a sideways glance. It's habit now. Her hair falls in her face, and I clear it away, and she puts it back. Not a word said.
It's difficult to imagine experience without her now. Why do I want to see mountains or oceans or stars without her? Why would I want to add something to my life that doesn't get added to hers? There are people who will tell you that's not healthy, that you shouldn't get so entangled with your child, to which I'll ask, aside from my wife, what else is worthy of such entanglement? I used to sleep in the desert, and wander empty coastline, and stare up at buildings that extended into the sky, and I did it all by myself, and now I can't help but feel the emptiness in all of those experiences. I didn't share them with anyone. I've spent a good chunk of my early adulthood alone...in college, on airplanes, on the road. I slipped off to Ann Arbor alone, and stumbled away the same. I declined a job that might have changed my life and instead slipped off to California...alone. I read June's letters from Japan high on giant Joshua Tree boulders, or in the darkness of my tent, with a billion desert stars lighting the pages.
I rode busses across an endless America, alone. I shot solitary free throws on lonely, broken rims in empty places, and I sat in crowded ballparks, and packed airplanes, alone. I don't know now how I did it...or why. I know that it helped make me, that it offered me something that people didn't. I know that Big Sur and Monmartre, and the endless windswept acres across Wyoming and Utah gave me something that I still use. I know that how I define myself now, what I want, who I am, is in large part a by-product of criss-crossing a country by myself...of awe inspired phone calls home at odd hours, of sleeping in desert bus stop parking lots, and losing myself more than finding anything. I'm sure of that. I know that I wouldn't be leaning on the people I am now if I wasn't pushing them all away at point. I'll need to explain that to Zoey someday and I'll very likely have a difficult time doing so. I know that if she chooses the same path as I, it will be hard. I don't know how my Mother managed. I think sometimes she didn't. I remember an old black man, a security guard at the Greyhound station in Detroit, meeting me as I stepped from the bus, disheveled and beaten down, broke, and telling me in no uncertain terms that, "you better call your Momma boy. She's awfully worried." I managed a smile but wondered quietly if I'd ever been so selfish. I did all of that alone, and now I can't stand to be apart from my daughter for more than a few hours before I get antsy and emotional...before I miss her.
I think I'll close my eyes when I'm eighty-eight years old, and very likely alone, again...and I'll still be able to hear it just as clearly as I do now..."Daddy." It's inconceivable how two simple syllables can fill your heart more than if you poured all those Joshua Tree stars into your chest. It's like nothing you could ever ride a bus through, or step out of a tent to. I get scared of being alone now. Two syllables.