Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn Afternoon

I'm sitting at my desk, which is tucked away in towards the back of the living room. It looks out onto the living room itself so that I can still see anyone in it, so that I can look out our front windows. My desk is scrubbed pine with lots of drawers where I hide presents for the kids. There's an undeniable presence of life in this room, from the books piled on the coffee table to the footprints in the carpet. There are smudges on the TV stand and the material of the couch is worn, but I like it that way.

I'm grading papers, able to concentrate because the boys are in the back yard. My computer is in a drawer - it's too distracting - and I have on a heavy sweater and socks. My sleeves are pushed up as they always are, and my hair is back as it always is, and my chin is in my left hand as I read. I hear the back door open and steel myself for the sounds of sneakered feet running on the tiles and shouts of "Mom! Mom!" but I don't hear it, so I figure that the four of you must not be ready to come in yet. Before I can realize that the door hasn't open and closed a second time to let someone back out, I'm pulled back by the nagging insistence of the papers. I want to finish these so that we can watch a movie tonight, so that we can go to the park tomorrow, so that I can maintain balance.

I hear the shuffle of socks in the kitchen, but I don't look up. There's a clink, the sound of the fridge opening and closing, but I don't look up. A few minutes later I sense you. I can't explain it, really: the air gets warmer and charged and the hairs on my arms stand up and every single nerve is pointed toward wherever you are, and you walk up behind me. You stand just beyond my right shoulder, and bend at the waist to set a cup of coffee on the desk. I still don't look up. Your left hand rests on the nape of my neck for a moment, then trails down my upper back and settles in a grip around the top of the chair. We decide at the same time to move toward each other, and your lips and nose meet the top of my head. I still haven't looked up. We stay like that for a minute, and I close my eyes, thankful to you for the coffee and the affection and the boys and the life we've built. For how you want to keep building it. I watch you with them sometimes when you don't notice, how every moment you're teaching them, how every moment you're loving them, how every moment you're trying to be as good as they think you are. As I think you are.

You let go of the back of the chair, and perch on the desk, facing me, on my right. I set my pen down and finally look up at you: pieces of leaves in your slightly silvering hair because Jack probably made a pile of them while you were raking and you couldn't resist, red cheeks because Harrison is old enough to give you a legitimate run for your money, charcoal smudges on your hands because you were helping Luke get the hang of shading his drawings. There's a hole in the shoulder of your sweater that I've never fixed because I like to slip my fingers into it when we're watching a movie as my secret-to-us way of saying I love you. My eyes rest on it for a moment and then go back to your face, which has the same expression you've been looking at me with for years: eyes sparkling like you know a secret. You tilt your chin up and out towards the back door; "they're asking for you."

"I'm almost done. Are they cold? Should I make cocoa?" My right hand fingers your jeans; there's a grass stain above the knee that I'll have to remember to look for when I wash them.

"They're ok for a while yet. Luke says the cold makes it easier to see things more sharply."

"And the rest of you are running around enough that I suppose it doesn't matter?"

Your hips push off of the desk and your ankles come uncrossed. "You suppose correctly. We'll be out there when you're done."

"Okay." You are already most of the way out of the room and I have already picked up my pen by the time I'm done saying the word. You pause in the threshold between living room and kitchen, late afternoon sunlight making a puddle at your feet. Your right hand is on the frame, your upper body rotated toward me. I look back, and we smile, and then you are gone through the back door to play in the yard with our sons until I join you.

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