He’s lost it a little. That something that pushed and pushed and pushed him. It was light. But there was deep darkness too. Days did not end or begin. They only moved seamlessly one into another. And now that he is full and filling out—heavier, slower, more patient with the world—he has so much of what he needs that wanting—feeling the urge to fight, fuck, and be free—seems selfish. Silly. Desire, he believes, is something for youth. And his youth is fading. Things are not as tight. Steady. As dependable and strong. He does not get and cannot take what he wants because his job is to be giving. To do whatever it takes for his family to be happy, healthy, safe. And though he finds great satisfaction in giving them a better life than he had as a kid—a better life than he, himself, now deserves—he wonders sometimes if he’ll ever get it back. If he’s lost it at all.
Maybe it’s in the river.
He thought this tonight as he and his wife spent the one hour they had without kids walking around the old town that he has loved and hated for so long.
“You want to stop in at The Lau for a drink,” she asked.
“No,” he said, and looked up at the sky that was moving quickly from light to dark. “We only have half an hour left, and you say you never get to walk the North Side.”
“Are you sure?”
He wasn’t. Never is. What is there to be sure about in this life, except for love?
For you wife.
A few friends.
“I’m sure,” he said.
And so, instead of drinking, they walked. And walked. Past the Lau, St. Mary’s Parish, and up Miller Street. Past shitty old houses. The dead bakery. And around the skate park, where kids—just fucking kids—sat, stood, skated, rode bikes, and smoked cigarettes. He wanted to walk over and slap each and every one of them. Knock sense in and smoke out. But there was no slapping, no fighting, no anything. They crossed the Ninth Avenue Bridge, and for a moment he thought of Aden and Jake. His two friends from the only decent story he had ever written. People he made so much like and so much unlike himself that he considered them his first kids.
Until he had kids.
And as he and his wife crossed over the dark water and he thought of what it was like to lose Jake—just a character that he conceived in a book that nobody reads—he could not bear the thought of ever losing his real kids. His wife. The reason he gets up every day, puts one foot in front of the other, and does what’s necessary to keep a good, solid roof over their heads. And as he peered down into the swirling depths, he began to feel better.
It has only been a bad day, he thought. One bad one in a string of good ones. It is true that I don’t have the time I used to have. That I am not the man I had believed I would be, but even my bad days are good. And time, as evident as it appears in the passing from day to night, is seamless. There is hope. A possibility.
He may have lost a little, but he has gained a lot. He is full and patient. And he is still learning how important it is to not worry about what he wants, but to be thankful for what he can give.
And tonight, there is this.