Thunder boomed, hard. I was half awake, my head propped on several pillows, drowsily cursing the doctors for their curiosity on my behalf. How many more nights, I wonder? I’ve gained 18 pounds since Thursday morning. It’s Saturday night. My appetite, forced anyway, has departed. Depression shoves its ugly way into my semi-waking state. I fight it, drug free, but sleep does open the door, allow a crack of unguarded real estate vulnerable to dreams and intruding thoughts. The past swallows me alive. I remember.
Thunder boomed, hard. I barely knew her name, this slight girl in pursuit of me, hell bent on interference. She angered me. Traffic roared on either side as I gauged the open spaces, mentally preparing for a moment in time, an instant, a fraction of separation in chaos that would allow me to dash across four lanes of late night traffic. The city seemed alive, monstrous, a devil, a demon and fiend; a gaping, slashed hole into the inferno, a place where monsters slightly slumbered. I felt the pull.
Lightening leaped across the sky, forked and menacing. Rain was nowhere, just this infernal heat and smog and light pollution and the pounding music from small holes in space where the lost sought what they did not have, what they could not understand, what they missed. The chasm of their souls.
The girl grabbed my arm. I frowned, annoyed once again. I shook of her hand. Intoxicated, she swayed in the menacing, drenching glow of streetlights buried in late night/early morning pollution. Exhaust fumes sickened me. The smell of burned grease, perfume, crack, meth, pot, cigarettes, booze, and sex – it was redolent. I needed space.
I fixated on one star. Only one. I sought that perfect wink of promise, of morning as I pondered my next move. I was leaving. My old green bag, so faithful, was packed. My cash was once again sewed into the bottom, safe. My bowie knife had been stowed inside, along with some essentials: A toothbrush. My passport and ID. An extra pair of shorts. A linen shirt. One pair of pants. A belt. Raincoat, tied to the outside. Duct tape, wrapped around a water bottle. Aspirin, antibiotics, bandages. Little else.
I couldn’t just leave her here. Predators loomed and scurried in the dark, menacing and overlooked in their shadow of evil. The girl swayed. I took her hand. It was clammy, cold. Desperate. She looked at me, naked in that moment, stripped of her guard, her love for me evident and obvious.
She was crying.
Thunder boomed, hard. My son cried out in his sleep and I was padding up the steps before truly awake. My footsteps, aided by adrenaline born from the ancient instinct to protect your own, were as silent as down before the breeze. I marveled for one moment at my instinctive ability to move so silently in the night, when I chose. A gift, perhaps, from my mother.
My monsters still loomed omnipresent as I entered my firstborn’s room. He was sitting in his bed, his small head, framed by blond curls, cocked slightly as he observed nature’s fury through his window. I ran my hand through his hair and down his back. Comforting.
He grinned at me in the dark. “Blanket, Daddy.” I soothed. “Yes, son, you have your blanket. Don’t be scared.” He looked at me, wide eyed and so full of questions. An unfathomable curiosity ranged in his hazel eyes, more expressive than most. “No, Daddy. Blanket.” I looked to where he was pointing. His blanket had fallen out of his crib. I picked it up, still warm from his embrace. He grabbed it delightedly.
He turned it in his hands, looking for something that I could not see, that perfect place of contentment, something that reminded him of the womb, perhaps. His mother’s heartbeat, as he lay safe and warm, listening to the love surrounding him, inundated by care and peace.
He settled back into his covers and closed his eyes. He smiled once more, then, just like that, fell asleep. One brave little boy in a thunderstorm. He knew no monsters. They had no bearing on his life.
Thunder boomed. I sat in my chair, watching my son sleep. I cried. I don’t know why.