“The long shadow” [Revised 10.21.2013]
How many days will I have until he is not a boy anymore? How many days until he asks me questions I cannot answer? Or if I can answer them will I have strength, or the wherewithal, or the desire to respond as a father should, as a father might if he knows?
Will he wonder at my failures as a boy or man? At the time I caved in by the trees and yelled “Fuck you!” at the top of my lungs to escape a headlock by a boy with brown snuff spit dripping down the back of my shirt, staining the nape of my neck and the blue shirt I’d gotten for my birthday? Will he know about the time I held a boy over the chimney rocks, dangled him like a rag doll but made of people stuffing, and threatened to drop him like a rock, on the rocks, to prove that I could?
Will he know what kind of a friend or husband I’d been or failed to be? A father? Will he one day cast a glance at me judging me cruel and indifferent for not witnessing the day he first used his own hands to tie the belt around his waist or the day he discovered that my patience had been taken up in the hot sun and made into a cloud that would never rain on his mother’s garden again?
Will he know my shadow is longer than the one I cast on the ridge by the Roman Tower in March? There, the wind only speaks with the voice of fish crows and ravens and the ear’s edge susurrus of a trout run below.
How many days will he have until I am gone, until neither of us can ask or answer questions face to face? Will he wonder at his own failures as boy and man? Friend or husband? As father? Will he cast a cold glare at himself for his inequities? Will he know his shadow, embrace it, and name it his name?
The blankets are tidy on the bed. I arranged the books in a fan. My hands made the marble run’s branching tower so he can hear the roll and click upon arrival. His blue stool, barely size enough for a cat to perch on, casts a shallow shadow across the floor creaking beneath my feet. The closed door quickly echoes in the long hall.