I woke up from dreamless sleep with her name rattling audibly in my ears. I might have even been the one to say it. I don't know. I sat and looked around my room, dark and still as it had been since she'd left. Nothing here but the boy, shirtless and curled up in the blanket even though it's hot. I ran my fingers against the grain of his new haircut and the bristles playfully jabbed my hand. I moved closer and draped my arm over the sleeping bundle of limbs and comforter and closed my eyes. I fell asleep again quickly, ignoring the sharp void and listening to the timbre of her name drift away on his hard breaths.
I rarely remember dreams and this morning is no different. I wake early and well. Mornings are getting longer but everything is set up perfectly and I tick off my mental to-do list without burden. Something to focus on, tasks, instead of the clawing silence, which I can't ignore when I see her footprints. The note on the refrigerator door. Lipstick on the mirror that I remind myself to wipe away. Someday.
I let the boy sleep while I shower. I am unrushed, purposeful attention to all the details. Time passes like a backbeat. The water temperature fluctuates without warning. I have the faucet handle almost all the way to the 'C,' but the water is warm, then, briefly, freezing, before finding the rhythm again. It didn't used to be that way. I decide not to shave. The glycerin bar for washing my face is down to almost nothing and I rub my hands together to wring the last lather from it, even though I bought a new one. I jump out of the way as the water again goes cold like a crash cymbal.
Rituals. I get ready by muscle memory as the short ends of my hair drip water on my shoulders. Deodorant, lotion, body spray. Boxer briefs, v-neck tee, socks. Same order. I lay out his clothes on the bed and try the different ways to wake him up. I turn on the radio and then remember his request. The flute is on the bedside table. I bought it for him in Ireland when I missed him as bad as I did on Sunday, when I needed his hugs because I'd lost the rest. I give him a little shove on the shoulder and he snaps right back to his spot. I cover four of the holes with my fingers and blow into the flute. It cost me €6.
Before he even opens his eyes, he smiles. "You remembered," he says, stretching.
I check my e-mail real quick, before he's done dressing. Still nothing. I say, "You know Kent, you really are a fucking prick" and laugh. Inside joke. What a girl from college said to me when we broke up. Famous last words. There's a note from my Dad, who's taking a writing class at his local junior college. He's attached a poem he's written. Loss and grief. Perfect ghosts. I read for cadence and find a melody. He says to tell his grandson 'hi' and writes a poem about someone else. I reply. "It's good."
I make breakfast and my son sits at the table telling me what he wants to do for fun this weekend since I was so busy on Saturday and he had to suffer errands and boredom. I promised he sets the agenda for next weekdend because he was so good. He says he wants to have a "Burp Fight," and explains the rules.
He has cinnamon toast and OJ. Wheat toast with slices of tomato for me. I just started eating breakfast before I leave for work. Doctor's orders. Need food in my stomach so I can take the pills. I pack an apple and a corned beef sandwich along with my work files.
On the train, I start to drift off, even though I'm not tired, I'm really not, and the conductor wakes me up near the Covina Station to check my ticket. He does this every day and I show it to him. I want to ask him what he'd do if I didn't have it, if I somehow forgot, I'm not perfect you know. He knows I'm here every day in this same car, in this same seat and he knows I have a pass. I wonder if he'd cite me. I bet he wouldn't. I won't ask, though I want to know.
The dead girl in Dad's poem is my half-sister. The tone is good, I think, and he stretches himself to full height. I can't stand it. She died before I was born. I hope he'll remember his grandson's birthday this year.
I read a Tobias Wolff short story. Bob Mould sings over metallic strums in my ear. I use a baseball card for a bookmark. People lie to get the truth is what he sings. And its strange to watch the dreams we had all fade away. The woman across from me reads the newspaper. On the front page, the three of them are talking about one word and that's how easily the empire falls. I try to remember what I said. Exactly.
I pushed her. I'd hoped she'd push back, tell me I was wrong about her.
The pills make it hard for me to concentrate. My work is sloppy and I'm nervous. I keep looking at the clock behind my desk, but it's been broken for weeks, a fact I only recall when I turn and see it's still noon. I sneeze a lot. My head feels gauzy and I'm hungry all the time, but I'm not supposed to eat a lot of foods because of possible reactions. I drink a lot of water. Next week, I'll get tested again. Then two weeks after that. It'll be fine.