Sometime in between the latest of latenight and the earliest of morning my eyes pop open to see Liam, identical but different, teetering on the edge of our bed. He’s going to fall... I move slowly, not wanting to startle him backwards. He is wearing footed pyjamas and a striped hat he’s put on himself, and he wobbles on the mattress as he thrusts a fruitful hand in my direction. Mama. TOY!
Something he’s found in his travels, colourful and cheery, and I oooh and ahhh and reach out to pull him in, tuck him between us for cuddles. My arms pass through him once and then twice and he evaporates like smoke, and I blink and remember. Right. He died.
Evan: Action Force DINKIES!
Evan: Brrrmmm... brrrmmm... AARRGGGGH! CRAAASH! ACTION FORCE!
Ben: (gazes adoringly) DINK-Y.
Evan: (casts appraising glance)
Ben: Brrrmmm... brrrmmm...
The big brother notes himself mentor, pleased.
I am only implicitly sad, faintly so, the same tug you get when you leave your house without keys or wallet or purpose. I pause before addressing him, feeling less and less as though he was ever mine. I shoo the memory of him aside, shamed for his witness as I bark at his brothers. One week until their birthday. I’m all blocked up with needing to write about him, yet nothing feels fitting except an abrupt two years ago right now he was everything he could have been and hey did I tell you, I see him at night.
It’s a 1909 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and from the moment it came into my hands it spoke to me like a magical thing, a key that might reveal all the longing and hidden meanings of the universe. And it does, a wheel of fortune that clicks and whirrs with the flip of pages, promising a prize upon its settling—if not the trip to Jamaica, a set of nonstick cookware. Perhaps not always fantastic but at least useful. This book is the only thing on an empty bedside table. I chose it, my bible, because I like that it makes him a king.