Like everything else, hair grows faster in the spring. From the nape down it's clumps of knotted clumpishness but it still pushes out, roots oblivious to ends, blindly longer, longer, gnarlier. The untended laundry does the same. A patch of shearling has been hanging off the edge of that rocking chair for a month or two. It's a thing now. It wants to be noticed like a teddy bear left upside-down, all the blood running to its head, poor thing, but I haven't been straightening anything. I am the barest minimum, clean clothes picked out of a clean-enough pile, supper at 9, bedtime when the sun comes up. Last week, when it was time to finish—really finish—I wrote from 10 AM until 4:30 AM. The final edit of 60,000 words in 18 hours, start to finish, without a blink. I lay there smiling in the dark when it was done. I couldn't sleep. When you're that happy, you can't possibly. Gnarly and happy. So much.
All kinds of things try to catch up with me. Chronic and self-inflicted lack of rest, water, movement. The taxes and the cream cheese. The standard-issue irony and self-doubt that comes with owning the emotional, mental, physical, ethical, nutritional, and imaginational development of two human beings, so much a given that it's not even worth exploring. It just is.
But I finished. I finished!
The manuscript for the sequel will be on its way to Sydney. He will read and start sketching. We will meet somewhere downtown to talk about the ship, the pipelines, the swede. Missy is fourteen now. The bone in her wrist juts out from where it got crunched, tangled, and Eric finds himself looking at it. He wonders if she'll be okay. Missy, god, Missy. She has waited so long.
I can't tell you about what happens when Sydney takes over. He gives everything real-live edges. I don't have words for it other than to say Christmas morning, top of the stairs.
Ben had his sixth birthday. Tickle-hands.
Anniversary bookends: his twin. Born May 5, died June 15. My mom and her friends make quilts for the NICU and drop them off in stacks of dozens. I contemplate going again to canoes and overhanging leaves. Or there's an ashram in Quebec that does yoga camps where you go and you're just silent, and you spend days breathing. Or there's always work and the need to hustle for it. I wonder if sticking to that hustle is the thing to do. Or write something. Burn something. Make something. Put something into the creek. Bake a tiny cake and chuck it as far as I can into the bay after I say something. It gets increasingly affected. A hallmark card with a bunch of puppies in a basket? A little prayer written in gold sharpie? God. I know. But what to do? How to mother an invisible child, when it comes down to it, long after all the animates and inanimates have stopped smoldering whenever I close my eyes? I love him like he lives. If I don't paddle to the place where we left his ashes, am I standing him up?
The teenaged phantom just rolled his eyes. Ugh, mom.
It's what a mother does. We worry. Phantom kiss.
There's an ashram in my backyard where you go and you're just silent, and you spend days breathing. I'm turning the crooked old shed into a studio. I gutted it and fell in love with crowbars. The sound a four-inch nail makes when I force it out, the way the wood exhales and stretches. A hammer might be the best tribute when you're not much for talking. Sweat and headphones and big bangs. Sawdust over ashes. I could try. I could line up all the wood, see if my dad's free to show me how to glaze old windowpanes. Imagine what else I could finish, smiling in the dark.
Maybe, like his brother, he can help.