When we first arrived for the afternoon noise fest at the Swansons’ place, Bryce was calm and collected. Deceptively collected. I picked him up out of the stroller, and he inched in as if he was expecting me to leave him there. I thought to myself that the whole daycare thing from the week prior really scarred the kid. I came in with him after parking the stroller next to cousin Eliot’s and pressing the brakes. I had a cup in my hand and he glanced from Uncle David to me. David was reaching out to Bryce telling him to come in.
Bryce went into the front room where he saw Gabby, a black cat who my friends like a lot but who I don’t like at all. Gabby jumped behind the couch and my son tried to find her. He went searching and didn’t come up with her, which was good because, again, me and Gabby don’t get along. We’re pretty sure Gabby once pissed on my wife while she was asleep but that’s another post.
The boy went to the miniature piano and started banging. Eliot was in the back, on his way up to say hello. When Bryce walked to the back, me and David followed. I think that’s how it went. When I saw Eliot, I waved at him and approached to hug him. He asked me for more melons please. I was thrown. David was laughing. A week ago he’d come to my house and played with Bryce, and I’d given them melon chunks. I had done that once before. Now, Eliot was associating me with honeydew. I would be the melon man in his mind. He was slightly disappointed when I didn’t pull little green chunks out of my pockets.
The screaming began after a while. Bryce and Eliot pushed a wagon of blocks through the house. They would walk into the kitchen together, sing or talk to themselves in that language that only they could understand. Eliot, who talks like big people, would say something to Bryce, and Bryce would respond in Eliot’s first language. Eliot would get it. This would go on and on until their words or gestures transitioned to yells and yips and yeeeees.
Eliot’s room was a lego wonderland. David pulled the legos from a well-stocked shelf that he told me he got from someone on craigslist. We talked about shelving. He offered me tea and made himself coffee. The boys did their thing, and we approached the dining room table. They knocked down a tall building that it probably took Eliot a day to build. We paid them no mind. They made noises that a person unfamiliar with the pair would have been jarred by. We talked about my conversation with Gardner Taylor, about David’s writing, about a story I’m working on, and about other work-related stuff that I won’t mention. David explained something about brewing coffee in his cool cup, and I sipped tea, being interrupted occasionally by Bryce who would ease in to see if I was still there.
I had to correct the boy a couple times. He tried to pull the pots and pans and jars off of the open island. We had to go in the front room to have a chat, and I heard David telling Eliot that Bryce couldn’t talk right now because he was having a talk with Uncle Michael. A few times David had to have mini-chats with Eliot, explaining that he couldn’t yell in the room with us, but that he could yell in his room, where he could shut the door. It all sounded so different from our moments together a few years back, when me and David would meet up for lunch or when we all, wives included, would sit in their living area and play games and talk about life and trade recipes and take walks regardless of bedtimes and meltdowns and colds and tears.
We left when Bryce’s window started closing. That’s my language for him needing a new scene. He wasn’t bored because he didn’t have things to do. He was enjoying Eliot. But he was bored because he wanted to pull pots and I wouldn’t let him. He was ready to go home and pull out his familiar toys, the ones I wouldn’t object to, even though he didn’t play with our pots either.
Eliot and David walked us out. It was raining something wonderful by then. David offered me an umbrella and a hat. We said something about the shorter days. It wasn’t even five. I blanketed the boy, leaving room for his face, and declined the coverings David offered.
I didn’t tell David, but I’ve grown to like walking in the rain without umbrellas since the boy’s come along. He’s taught me that the rain doesn’t hurt and that, well, it dries. So I didn’t need a hat. Of course I knew that the rain didn’t hurt. But for some reason I used to clench my shoulders in the rain. Some reflex would press them in and I’d have to remember to walk upright or to stop hunching over and to straighten myself. I’d rush when running to my car or from my parking space to my building.
When we left the Swanson house, I looked at Bryce and saw him taking in the rain. He was saying “bye” to Eliot and David and watching the sprinkles and drops. And I remembered that he liked the rain, even covered from most of it. I remembered that I like the rain. And that when we got home after all that playing and after all the walking and getting wet, we’d pull off those watery clothes and get dry.