Yesterday I dropped and retrieved the boy from his day job. His job is to play, and dance, and sing. He does other things, but those are his chief requirements for a good day.
Usually he begins his days with his mother. That has been a routine they’ve worked out for the last couple weeks, and over those days, Bryce has enjoyed the attention and affection of people none of us knows. There’s been, I imagine, the murmur of good mornings to my wife but especially to my son as people stand, looking west, for the bus. That’s accompanied by the understanding nod of some sweet lady’s head in the direction of my wife. The bus driver’s smile and greeting is part of the new normal movement, the patience expressed when Dawn has found her seat safely. There’s been the look of the neighbor on our floor, acknowledging that she knows them beyond our condo confines, even though Bryce only says something to her when he sees that neighbor’s noisy dog across the hall. He’s come to expect the dog to greet him whenever we walk to our unit. The boy has soaked up love on the bus as they express from the neighborhood to his workplace. For these reasons and for others he has not divulged, Bryce has come to rely on that commute and all its passing admirations.
That made yesterday hard. You see, I explained to him when he woke at the (new) usual time—when his mother woke—that I was taking him to work and that his mother was going without him. The cloud fell upon his forehead. He started to complain in the way that is both unclear two-year language and very clear since we’ve learned to clarify our points.
I told him that mommy was taking the bus but he was going in the car. He started into that early yelping that I don’t like. I told him to stop. It’s too early for that. Find something to wear. I told him things that he didn’t care about: I’m taking you today. Mommy’s going to school tonight and she has to drive half way, like last week, and the bus will be too full by the time it meets you at the half way point. He heard me because my voice was strong, even if confused by morning darkness, but he didn’t listen to me. He cared less and less the longer I explained.
I started breakfast while he muttered around and talked to his mother. They do that in the mornings, talk. I ignore it, of course, because I don’t think people should talk to each other before the sun has risen for a good three hours in the time zone I find my legs.
Dawn rushed through the hall way, speaking some of the things I had been. She collected her stuff, clomping too loudly. Her feet felt like spikes in my ears. I longed to be asleep. I thought about the person under our floor and how they once wrote a note to us about not wearing boots late at night and how me and Dawn were confused because we hadn’t worn boots the night before or the night before that and how I looked at my boots in the closet as if to question them, one pair at a time, about their doings when I wasn’t around. As she readied to leave yesterday, Dawn clapped on the floor, gathered her ID, her keys, everything making distinct impressions in my ears. Bryce was still unhappy. He voiced it through thin “no’s” and “buses” and other unidentifiable words.
Dawn kissed him, kissed me. It wasn’t until she opened the door that the boy started crying. I told him to lock the door after mommy left because he likes that sorta thing. Does he already like closing people off? Am I projecting when I think of him that way and when I make sense of that little enjoyment? Can these questions be answered so early in the morning?
I held a cup in my hand. He closed the door and was still crying. I gave him his cup, and the noise ceased. He wrapped his hands around that purple plastic like it was his only good friend. And it was wonderful because there were some things that hadn’t yet changed. Our routine had. Way back it was so normal for the mornings to be ours, back when there were no buses in his commute, no strangers offering him smiles, when my smile was what he had before the day truly got started, when no noise sliced between us in the mornings because we agreed between ourselves that we were better than that! Things had changed, but milk hadn’t.