I had a dream about you, baby tall.
Last night, in the midst of a city very much like New York — my city, not your city — we stood in between two slow snowfalls; and you were suddenly taken. It’s the way I had seen too many fall for my city — not your city — when all that grime and mess and neuroses had been covered by the endless, fresh sheets of snow; suddenly making life seem not so hard. Not so bad. (It would happen a lot, in my city, unless those in the midst of it had arrived with some stubborn arrogance in tow. But if they hadn’t made up their mind, most of the time they would fall, for my city.)
In a nook of a miniature park, in the cove between two high-rises, the air was warm, windless: It was waiting for the next fall. Generally, it had been true, about my city: It never failed to give it a rest, but not until one was hopelessly fed up; on the verge of losing one’s mind. And then the city would let up a little, for long enough to grant a breather. Just as we were now:
In a nook of a miniature park, you and I — were in the midst of a breather, in between two slow snowfalls.
You always stood so tall: more of my son than any others that came before you. Sometimes, I would catch your blue-eyed gaze deciphering something I could not have known. (A life? A love? A dream, a game, a sport.) You’d see me looking up and you’d wink: Busted, baby tall. So very much busted. I did look up this time, again, but at the heavy clouds patching up the night sky — little foam baths for shiny stars:
“How long is the breather?” I wondered. “How long can we have, here?”
But you always stood so tall, so there you were: Right above me, winking. And suddenly, all that manhood that someone had taught you to put on — the control, the knowledge, the groove I had always secretly worshiped in you — all that fell away. Two step was all it took for you to make it over to a hilly flowerbed (because you always stood and walked so tall); and before I could say, “Love?” — you were on the ground, awkwardly for your height, but still, very much my son. Your long limbs began to swing around, as if swimming in a giant pool; and you began to laugh in a way I had never heard, in the midst of our breathers: abundantly and out of control, as if no damage had ever happened to your child.
“What are you up to, over there?” I asked, chuckling; and I felt my tear ducts kick-in.
“So good!” you answered, “Really: So good!” It’s what you’d always say when you wanted my participation. And back into the giant pool of your laughter you dove in. Out of control.
It would take my slow descent onto the patch of snow underneath my feet; for I was always older than you, flaunting those years as aging big cats do when teaching their cubs how to hunt. I was wearing that same black coat from college, but it now sat a couple of sizes too big on my tauter, more disciplined body. So, it asked for some maneuvering to land onto my back. I spread the bottom of of the coat like a giant tail and reluctantly began replicating your strange, unlikely behavior.
“Oh,” I said — I finally got it — and looked over at your blue-eyed gaze deciphering something. “Is baby tall making snow angels?”
But then, you stopped laughing, back in control — in the knowledge, in the groove of all that manhood someone had taught you to put on.
In the midst of a city very much like New York — my city, not your city — I thought:
“Here is — to NOT happening.”
It has been my toast to every morning since I’ve learned to wake up without you. It has become my prayer, my chronic chant as I continue to flaunt my years in front of other cubs that have happened since you. They can’t hang, can’t groove, can’t hunt; and they definitely don’t know how to follow an older woman’s lead. And so they leave, soon enough, for younger, simpler loves. And I don’t even itch with resistance: I let them go.
“Here is — to NOT happening,” I think.
Sometimes, a love story is not a go-to novel, pregnant with favorite quotations, that rests on a bookshelf dusty everywhere else but in its vicinity. Sometimes, it’s just a vignette: a pretty design on the spine of someone’s history. A short story. A lovely fable. A melancholic lullaby. And so fearful we are, sometimes, of our own mortality — of our irrelevance — so stubbornly arrogant, we leap into a sad habit of making a mess out of our break-ups and departures. And we just can’t let it go.
But not this time, baby tall. Not with this aging big cat. Because you were more of my son than any others that came before you; and because my age had asked me for much slower maneuvering in that tauter, more disciplined body of mine.
So many had come before you, and they had taken so much; I am still surprised at how easily I am ready to love. But even if they have vanished entirely, after our messy break-ups and departures, I am too wise to dismiss them. They are still — my lovely fables. My melancholic lullabies. And no matter how long the healing, with the next magnificent love, I inevitably have come to know:
“Here is — to NOT happening.”
Oh, but it’s a good thing, my baby tall: to not have happened! “Really: So good!”
So, here is — to this breather, in between our falls, in between our dreams. And yes, here is — to the next magnificent love, or the next vignette.