For Stewart

I’m embarrassed by it. The cliché. The first thing I noticed about Stewart was his eyes: I thought they were blue. Or grey. (I was wrong.) They’re bright, like my father’s, another fact I hide. How Stewart’s eyes reminded me of my father’s, right away. How the first thing I thought when I saw him was, I know that light. And then, How do I stay?

We met in a park toward evening. I was early, so I walked the perimeter to bide time. I waited at a corner for the light to change. I stopped to watch a dog bark at an indifferent horse. I think about that time before Stewart arrived. I think about waiting. Circling. How I repeated blocks for nothing. How I avoided the forest behind me.

I think we hugged. I told him about the dog shouting at the stoic horse. I told him I was ready. And then we walked, toward a bridge that led to another. We walked toward the water like young people do—totally sure and resolutely away.

One time, he drew me thirteen miles. We were headed for a rough beach, some outpost drink stand. Another cliché: When we walked, I didn’t feel anything. There were no stones. I didn’t have legs. There was never any water. There were street food smells, cheap CDs, some man laughing, his gold teeth. There were windows, another family’s finished parlor, chalk games withering. And the stuff we said—the words we made wandering.

After we met, I left New York for a week in Vermont. I sent Stewart pictures from the north: a long highway with a cloud lingering; a stalled-out tractor; another dreamed field in the sun. And halved me, mute before it. Halved me, dumbed by stun. That’s what knowing Stewart is like: standing mute in front of the Grand Canyon. Watching nature perform itself blithely. There’s a panorama to it. A hollowing. And I wait, halved, on its promontory, watching the horizon tire.

On a date, Stewart said you know someone by the smell of their forearm. We were in an oak bar drinking. I don’t remember what he said about me—how my sunscreen interpreted. But I remember holding his arm in my hand. I remembering thinking, You could tell this man everything. I didn’t think he was dirty, though we’d walked for miles. I thought he’d never lie, though he has. So, a little drunk, hurt feet on a sticky floor, I picked him. And we started walking, toward a jetty Stewart heard of once.

One year later, Robin came. In the operating room where he was born, I waited alone for a time. A fluorescent light flickered above me. Some nurses twittered nearby. There was a blue crepe wall between me and the rest of me, hiding the place where Robin lay. And then Stewart came, suited. Then Stewart came, eyes watching me. And we waited, silent in that church we were in. We waited for Robin to cross a bridge.

Now, Robin speaks. He says things like, “ball.” “Book.” He points, arm next to his chin, to the street, a dog, nothing at all. He talks on the playground, and I don’t hear him. During the day, when we’re alone, Robin says to me, “Ma-ma-ma,” like a rope that pulls him forward. Like a need. But in the morning, at the end of the day, he says, “Da,” like a hymn. And the word rises. Robin says, “Da,” and a boat buoys.

When we’re alone, I say things to Stewart like, “I’m afraid.” Before we go to sleep, I turn to Stewart and I say, “I’m afraid.” Again. He blinks at me. Stewart says things like, “It’s the morning.” Or, “Let’s look again.” Stewart says things like, “Love is what makes us one thing.” And I think about the forest, the trees. How I lived, circling. How I repeated blocks for nothing, counting shapes lingering.

Later, Robin and I wait for him to come home. We play a wooden xylophone to kill time. I know there are patterns in music to be made, that you can make these things resonate. But I’m not good enough to do it. I make loud repercussions with sound. Somewhere, all the notes fall down. Robin watches me bang a tune the walls give back. Robin watches me cacophony. And we wait for Stewart to come home. We wait for Stewart.

My husband says things like, “We’re never going to end.” He lies. There’s a world where I circle a block after him. There’s a time when I wait at a corner for a light to change and it diminishes. I wait inside an unlit church, at the top of a hollow Grand Canyon. It’s evening. I wait, on a promontory, having seen things.

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