Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Standing in the front door of the brick apartment building is a woman, propping the door open with her extended arm. She feels the wind's pressure against the door in her triceps. The sun is shining through the clouds, lit and relit in the high snow. It has been warm enough that the snow on the walkway is melted. The man and the very small boy stopped and looked back at her, the former smiling, the latter squinting against the ambient bright light.
The boy was wearing his father's hat, folded up in half, so that it fit his head. He listened to her tell him she wasn't coming outside, and had clenched his hand and opened it, in a wave, and said with a lisping little mouth, "Bye-bye." Each word spoken with such specific attention. She laughed and said "bye-bye" back, imitating his stress pattern, and the father laughed. The small boy hesitated, still, and on a whim, she said "Blow me a kiss?" the boy ducked his head and furrowed his brow further. He started trodding back along the walk towards the door. The diffused reflected sunlight brightened his pale face.
She squatted in the doorway, still holding the door open, still resisting the slight wind, smiling. Kisses were special and rare- tokens of delicate affection placed carefully on adult mouths like jewelers place precious stones in settings. Adult kisses were frequent, sometimes slathered on his smooth fat face. They were often greeted with glee, but there had been many times the boy had exercised his right to refuse. She remembered them specifically at first, the smiling and the serious, always his little face swinging quickly away from her. She had given up requesting them, and had as a result, received the two he gave her with surprised tears in her eyes.
Up the short walk he toddles, his coat rustling and twisting as he swings his arms, eyes downcast. He keeps his eyes on the ground, carefully assessing his steps. He takes the small step up and finally looks up, very serious. He tilts his face up and placed his mouth against hers, his skin lit impossibly bright in her memory. Such a careful gesture, a gift, freely given and undertaken with great solemnity. The woman's eyes fill with tears, but the boy is already turned and walking back to his father. The man is laughing, shoulders shaking and eyes squinted up, sharing in her almost crying. They look at one another for a moment longer until the boy reaches his father. The boy waves again, the clench unclench of his little fist, and says with great care, "Bye bye." The adults laugh and nod.
"Bye bye." she repeats, voice a little thicker than before. She finally gives in to the wind, and lets the door swing shut, the flat brown face of it eclipsing slowly the bright snow.

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