“I just need to be doing my own thing. I’m claustrophobic here,” is what he said, before he left. And I stood there with a beautiful baby on my hip and nodded and when he came back for his last bag he held my face between his hands and kissed me full on the mouth, tongue and all, and whispered, “You have no idea how much I want you right now.”
I was never as desirable to him as when he was leaving.
He gave me one of his blue-grey looks, seductive and cold. It shot straight through me, to the wounded backspace of my own undoing, unbeknownst to me or perhaps completely knownst to me but what difference did it make now, anyway?
For him, the depth of that look lasted no longer than the five seconds it took to walk out the door.
I stood there, then, far longer than I should have. Staring at the closed door. Unable to turn away from it.
And finally at dusk I turned, walked down the hall to the bedroom, climbed into bed with the baby, and wondered what would happen next.
For a time, it was the frozen moments that made a life.
Endless circuits on the bus with the baby in my lap. Deliberately missing my stop because I couldn’t make sense of standing up.
Making my way home on foot, the baby hidden inside my loose jacket. The darkening sky. The skeletal branches of bare trees.
And in the apartment, a phone that didn’t ring.
A forgotten razor blade in the porcelain soap dish.
A dirty window pane.
And so on. Until the portentous evening that we arrived home one shoe short.
“Where’s your other shoe?” I asked the baby, taking his tiny foot in my palm.
He blinked at me.
I quickly rewrapped him and headed back into the night.
I could feel something alive in me for the first time in weeks.
Outside, a drizzling rain fell amidst steamy fog. We made our seekers’ way down one block, then two, and three.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find it,” I told the baby.
For a second, I was almost afraid of it.
I took a breath, and checked both ways before running into the street to retrieve it.
It was soppy wet, the precious white laces dirty and limp.
I pulled back my jacket to show him and was met with his wide baby eyes.
“We found it,” I went to say, but my voice caught.
I tucked the shoe carefully in my jacket pocket. Lifted my baby out of his carrier and up to my heart. And, breathing in his solid, pure scent, I hugged him for a long, long time.
When my beautiful baby and I arrived back home, an old woman in the lobby held the security door open for us. I looked her in the face with way too much intensity, I know, but it couldn’t be helped. I took her free hand in mine and said, “I don’t know where I’ve been. It was horrible.”
I felt her trying to pull her hand away from mine, and I squeezed a tiny bit tighter, enjoying the feel of her warm, pliable skin, the frail bird bones inside.
“It’s okay,” I told her, “I’m back now.”
And I let go.