PART 3 OF 4
She made the mistake of turning on the television–something to relieve the silence of the house–and there he was on the evening news, a headline, one of three bodies. On a radio talk show a psychologist discussed the state of our children and included David in an epidemic of childhood immorality that included the burning of a church, the beating of a woman in Golden Gate Park, and the use of drugs. Our youth were reckless, soulless, and adrift, he said. Every day another paper arrived on the front porch like a taunting and even after Patrick had canceled the subscription they kept coming. And here, at the grocery store, was David again, staring back at her from the front page of the Enquirer.
She was at Safeway, standing in a long line of shoppers who waited in the narrow row that led to the cash register. What finally got Sarah out of the house was an empty fifth of vodka and the last four aspirin of a large bottle that was full just a week before. She stood there in line behind women with baskets full of fish sticks and Otter Pops, boxes of Coke cans and lunch-size bags of chips spilling out across the black conveyor. With a bottle of Stolichnaya clutched in her hand, she felt the walls of her chest collapsing in on her lungs. She tried to turn away from his picture, but wherever she looked he was staring back at her, either for real, in the bleeding color of those photographs, or in her mind when she closed her eyes to calm herself. She couldn’t go home without this bottle and she couldn’t stand there with her dead son watching her. So she stood there in paralysis, with nowhere to go except inward and face the horrible fact that she had to go on living. She had to stand there and wait her turn, she had to smile to the smiling cashier—who was just a child, just a high school kid with a night job—and she had to pull the money from her pocket and wait for the change and she had to go home, and, inevitably, she had to go back to school and face her students, kids who didn’t know yet what their lives were worth.
She knew the picture; it was his ninth grade yearbook photo, the last year he smiled for such shots. She faced him and remembered the day the picture was taken, the way she had forced him to comb his hair, even though he wanted to spray it up into little spikes as if his head was a dangerous weapon. She had bought him the blue shirt just days before because it brought out the color of his eyes and she liked to see that blue looking out at her. She drove him to school for the picture that day and he made her park on the other side of the parking lot. Even though she understood why, when he got out and walked across that expanse of pavement, between the parked cars and the planted trees, she felt alone and separate in a way she knew she would for good.
They must have gotten the picture from someone at school. Roberta had called her and told her someone had asked for information about Sarah. She had told him to go to hell, but they were hovering around the school, talking to students. She guessed they must have been to Washington too. One night a man from The Sun had called the house, got Patrick, thank God, and offered him $10,000 to sell their story. Patrick pulled the phone out of the wall, but then calmed, grabbed his tools from the garage, rewired the phone, refastened it, and called their lawyer.
Above David’s picture was a headline: “Boy Professes Love for Councilman’s Wife.” Then in smaller letters, “The shocking story of love and murder.” She wanted to read what was inside, even though she knew, or thought she knew, it would be lies, but the prospect of there being any truth in the story at all was like an open conviction in a public trial and she needed to know, she needed answers, any answers.
But she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t lift her hand and she turned away to see a woman in the next aisle open the paper. As she read, a little girl, maybe seven, ran up to her with a bag of candy in her hand.
“Can I get this?” The girl leaned against her mom’s hip, but kept her eyes on the candy. “Can I?”
The woman glanced at the girl’s hand and said, “Sure, honey” and the little girl smiled and began to rip the plastic off the bag. Her mother didn’t seem to notice and she continued reading. The girl had now opened the package and pulled out a small red candy and placed it in her mouth. While she ate that one, she reached in the bag, pulled out another, and put that piece of candy between her lips. She reached for a third. She’s going to choke, Sarah thought, but the mother was still reading the paper, her brows pushed together, her eyes glancing back and forth, and when she was done, she closed it and shook her head, the kind of head shake that indicates disgust, the kind that implicates and believes that the horrible things that happen in the world happen in some separate reality, some place far away from yourself.
“Beautiful daughter,” Sarah said.
The woman looked up, her face broken into a smile and said, “Thank you” before she recognized Sarah’s face.
“Don’t think you can keep her safe,” Sarah said. She twinged at her own words, but didn’t try to soften the effect.
The woman’s smile left and she looked at Sarah for a moment like she was some suburban prophet spreading a dark truth. She turned away, found her daughter’s arm and pulled her close.
When the line moved up, Sarah lifted every Enquirer off the rack and held them close to her chest. When she laid them out on the conveyor and the poor girl rang each one up, the woman standing behind her stared off in the distance out at something that was not Sarah.
* * *
His journals were silent for a few weeks, but she didn’t bother him about it because he hadn’t betrayed anything to the students. They kept writing in their journals, folding over their most personal entries. Sarah even stopped marking zeroes in the grade book next to Dominic’s name where the grade for the journals should have been.
There was something new between them, she could feel it. In class he still said nothing, didn’t do any of the in-class writing, but he was quietly less defiant. She thought she noticed him looking at her, just brief glances, when he came into class. Occasionally when she lectured, his face would be lifted from his binder, his hand would stop drawing, and he would listen. One morning she called in sick to work. She had had a dream about David and when she woke the prospect of a day surrounded by kids felt like a rock pressing against her chest. In her desk drawer the next morning was a note from him. Man, Ms. Evans, that substitute was hella boring! She should have been angry, but she couldn’t find it in herself.
Then something happened and he started filling pages upon pages of his journal with writing, none of them folded over. When she first saw the pages, something caught in her chest, and rather than read them after school at her office desk, she took his home, made a drink, and settled into the couch.
He wrote about what it was like to be stoned, the way he had thought about killing his step-father once, the way school was for geeks and people who kissed teachers asses, how he hoped to be a BMW mechanic one day because you could make “hella money” and he wrote about his father.
My mom says my father ain’t worth thinking ‘bout, but I can’t help it and I think ‘bout him all the time. He lives in L.A. and he used to be in some gang, some small East L.A. gang, but he did time and now I don’t know what he does. Got a letter from him like three years ago. My mom didn’t know ‘bout it and I just left one night and took a Greyhound to L.A. I didn’t even know where I’d find him, but I sent a letter to him, back to the address on the letter he sent, told him I was coming, and I kept imaginin’ him standing there at the bus station, waiting for me to get off, but when I got there he was no place to be seen. Just some guy sleeping on the benches, and I remember he was all wet in the middle like he’d pissed his pants or something and the whole station smelled like piss and I got sick in the bathroom and I got back on the next bus home. When I got home my mom looked like she hadn’t slept in like forever and she slapped me when I got back, but then I knew she loved me. But it isn’t enough, you know. It’s like there’s this one person out there that doesn’t give a shit, and I can’t stop thinking ‘bout him and don’t know if I will ever. How do you forget about someone? How did you get over what happened to your son?
“You have no right to ask me such a question,” she wrote back. But then she set aside his journal, made a drink, and let her mind settle. “If you want me to speak to you about David,” she wrote, “I want you to tell me about Maria.”
* * *
Sarah had pulled pictures out of albums and taped them to the refrigerator, she hung pictures from the mirror in their bathroom, spread them across the kitchen table. She spent hours staring at their glossy images, as if they might speak to her some explanation. For months she stood in front of the refrigerator with a drink in hand and gazed into her son’s face or sat in the middle of the living room with baby pictures spread across the floor or placed certain pictures from family vacations in progressive order as if they might become animated. There was a picture with his hand wrapped in a gauzy bandage, and what it told her was that it was her fault he had touched the stove-top burner. There was another of his leg in a cast–she never should have let him have a skateboard. There were a million mistakes she had made, but the worst was that when she looked at these pictures, even now, nearly a year after his death, she only saw shades of the boy in him, even when he had become a man, and that mistake, that underestimation of him as a separate person was the final thing that caused her to lose him.
And there were the clippings from newspaper articles, Op Ed pieces, the pictures of his body being wheeled out into the light, the picture of her in Detective O’Reilly’s car, her face like something transluscent and nocturnal. There were the quoted phrases from his journals, a supposed text message sent from his cell phone: “U-R-Myn”, it said, and she didn’t know if he had sent it or the woman. There were pictures of her, the woman, young, beautiful, much younger than Howard. There were the words and phrases she underlined: ‘Illicit”, “affair”, “guilty”, “absent parents”, “found naked”, “unstable”, “troubled”,“love”, “lover”, “loving”, “loveless”, “too young.”
Patrick came and went to work, he took trips to the home office in Phoenix and had called one night to tell her he needed to stay a couple days longer; they were working over the weekend, he had said. She knew what that meant. When he came home, he would take the pictures off the bathroom mirror and hide them in drawers and she would have to find them and replace them when he was gone. It was like a game they played, an argument with mementos as pawns. One night when she had been asleep, he pulled down all the clippings in the house, even lifted the ones off the floor and placed them in a shoebox that took her all of the next day to find. When he got home that night she waited for him and screamed and he screamed back and then they sat there in that thickening silence once again.
His mind must have still been unsettled about it, because Patrick came home with a couple bottles of wine and a bag full of groceries. It was a week and a day from the anniversary of David’s death. The night was warm, the first in months, and he opened up the house to let it in, put on some Coltrane, uncorked the first bottle of wine and went to work in the kitchen. She wasn’t hungry, but she went into their bedroom anyway and found a dress she knew he liked. She washed her face and pulled back the hair she had let fall into her eyes. There was more grey, the wrinkles around her eyes were deeper, but she was able, through much makeup, to create a semblance of her other self. When she was done, she found Patrick at the table, bathed in candlelight, and she almost remembered that she loved him and she wanted to, wanted that feeling in a way she hadn’t in a long time. He stood and took her hand–an amazing thing a hand–and walked her to the table. It was as if they were on their first date and it seemed ridiculous to her, but she allowed him to pull out her chair. He poured the wine and held it up for a toast, although to what they were toasting she didn’t know because he didn’t say anything. They didn’t even touch glasses, just lifted them towards each other. There was something sinful about this, as if Patrick were trying to tease pleasure out of the world again, and she felt slightly sick to her stomach as she cut into the fish. She drank the wine, but it was dry and acidic.
Patrick moved the food around on his plate but ate little. He set down his fork and knife and looked at her. “I need you back,” he said.
She set the wine glass down and held it there for a moment to make sure it wouldn’t tip over. She didn’t know what that meant, to ‘have her back’, but she found out when he stood, walked around the table, laid his hand on the back of her neck and kissed her. She tried to kiss him back and before she knew it she was standing up from the table, the uneaten meal left there alone, and being led back to the bedroom.
He laid her on the bed and she immediately wanted to sleep, wanted to curl herself up into a ball and become small and distant and lost, but he was kissing her shoulder, the weight of him pushing down. He turned her over and unhooked the dress, and she let herself be undressed. She watched him as if from a great distance as he pulled the tie from his neck, unbuttoned his shirt, and lifted his legs out of his pants.
He lay on top of her and she could feel his stomach against hers. She kept her arms at her side, but he lifted them and wrapped them around the thickness of his shoulders, placed her fingers on his back, and she felt the softness of his skin give under the pressure of her fingertips. She felt him pushing his way inside, but she wasn’t ready and it hurt but she let him anyway. He leaned in closer to her face, filling up her vision with his cheeks and nose and flashes of his lips and then David was there, there in that face that moved in and out of her vision, there in the contours of bone and flesh and she tried to drive him away, tried to force him out of her mind, but even as she closed her eyes he was there. She pushed Patrick away, shoved her knees into his hips, and kicked her legs until he was off her. She pulled her legs to her chest, facing him, and thought of all the things she should say but said none of them.
“I can’t do this,” Patrick said. He sat on the edge of the bed, his white back facing her. “They offered me the position in Phoenix.”
She let that settle into the carpet a moment, the fact of it ringing in her ears.
“Do you love her?”
He lifted his head a little; she could see the movement of shallow breath in his ribs.
“I can’t be here like this,” he said, and he stood up naked in their bedroom, his body thin and sad. She remembered the muscles of who he was, the tight stretch of ligaments, the thickness of his chest, but age had finally caught him by the neck. He was only a man afterall, she thought, and she wasn’t mad. “Maybe some day in the future, but not now, not like this,” he said. In the dark he pulled on his pants, slipped on a shirt and started to walk out.
“Don’t,” she said.
He stopped near the open door.
“Come here,” she said. “Come here and you can pack tomorrow.”
He walked back towards the bed, laid his body next to hers, the warmth of it seeping through his clothes and into her skin, and he stayed like that until the coldest part of the night passed into morning.
* * *
Her father’s got the old school Oaxaca thing going on. He hates me and everytime I drive by the house he comes out waving his fist or screaming to me in Spanish. But he’s gotta go to work, you know, so when he’s gone Maria’ll meet me outside and we’ll drive somewhere. Sometimes my house or down to the water, but not too often there because that place eats at me, or up into the hills, just somewhere we can be alone. She tells me her father threatens to send her back to Mexico, and sometimes she cries over it, but what can we do? She was a virgin when she met me and if her father knew she wasn’t now, he’d probably kill me or something. I think his family still pulls the old white sheet on the wedding night, shit. Can you believe that? It’s kind of weird talking about this with you, but you know she didn’t really want to at first and I didn’t force her to, but we talked about it, and I said it would be safe and we used stuff, you know. I think it hurt her when we did it the first time. Her face was funny looking, and she cried a little, and I thought about stopping, but I couldn’t. I kind of feel bad about that, you know, because I think it would’ve been nice for her if I did, especially when I knew it hurt her, but once you’re going it’s like your body takes over and you’re on overdrive or something and you just can’t stop. But it wasn’t just sex. Really it wasn’t–it’s more than that, but I can’t explain it. It doesn’t matter what my mother says about it, or what her Dad says. He tells her I just want to use her, just want to ruin her, you know, because that’s the only way he can think about it—me ruining her. But he’s wrong, because it’s not just about getting inside of her, about ‘getting off’ like they say, it’s about how she makes me feel afterwards, you know? She’s so damn beautiful, like an angel, really, ‘my mexican angel’, and every time I can’t believe she’d do that with me, I can’t believe she’d let me, and, you know, in a way I kind of do feel like I’m ruining her. Is that weird? Will I marry her? Shit, Ms. Evans, I don’t now, but I’ll tell you one thing, I love her.
* * *
They had made a deal, an exchange of confidences, but she was onto her third drink and still the blank page of his journal stared back at her. She had only written “Dominic–” at the top, and the rest of the page was such an expanse of emptiness, that she had no clue how to fill it up. How did she get over losing David?
She hadn’t, but in some way she must have because she was sitting here, writing to this boy, going to school everyday, and even hoping that Patrick might come back sometime, that he might return and they could start over again. Sometime she had made a decision to get off her bed, to not let herself rot away, but she hadn’t made that decision through any degree of letting David go. Or had she? She remembered him in a fixed state, the only state she could: an eighteen year old man who shaved but still had the skin of a child. But more than two years had passed now. She was getting older and greyer, and the dye she rinsed through her hair no longer hid the fact. She sank into certain unassailable beliefs that only the old and worn-out keep. The only sure thing in life is that you search for love and lose it. We all are–no matter how strong, tough, young or brutal–horribly vulnerable. Love. Love is a killer. Love is overprotective and not protective enough. Love is the keeping of memories. No matter what, life is lived when it no longer seems livable, and there’s a permanence to that, a painful, dig down in the earth and hold on kind of permanence. And this last fact, no matter what she did to reconcile herself to it, always made her feel she was betraying David. A mother shouldn’t move on, she thought.
She wrote: You’ll never forget your father. He’ll always be there as a memory, good or bad, hovering over everything you do and everything you are or become. You can’t wait for him, because he’s not coming back. You might as well accept that now, and learn to live with it, learn to be stronger and better than it. My son was beautiful and I’ll never forget him and I don’t want to, but he’s gone and I cannot let the memory of him live my life. The worst thing about it is that I feel like I did it somehow, like I was the one who killed him. Does that make sense? –Ms. Evans (Sarah)
She thought about crossing out her first name, but decided to leave it.
She set down the journal, walked to the kitchen and made herself another drink. It was late, 2:00 AM according to the clock in the kitchen, and she had to be at school for her first class at 8:00. She had learned to get through class hung-over, drunk even, and when she took another sip of her fourth drink, the icy-burn in her chest was like the numbing of the whole world. She was working up a question, something she needed to know from Dominic, because she suspected this love he spoke of wasn’t love at all, but that he, also, wouldn’t recognize it as anything but this four-letter word that was batted around in songs and movies and by fourteen year old girls with stars in their eyes. She walked down the hallway that led to David’s bedroom, stood in the doorway, and tried to imagine his presence there, tried to hear his voice, or the sound of his breathing from beneath the sheets. She remembered him in the middle of the night, when she awakened to his head beating against his pillow, the sound like a fist punching a mattress. He was asleep, his eyes shut tight like they were threaded together, but he kept drawing back his head and slamming it against the pillow. She laid her hand on the back of his head, the hair so soft between her fingers, and pushed down gently to keep it resting on the pillow. When the muscles in his neck calmed, she sat there next to the bed, her fingers working in his hair, trying to calm whatever was wild inside. But he was calm in his waking, or seemed so, and that’s what disturbed her most: the possibility that David, underneath the surface of his placid temperament, had actually been smashing up against himself. What he was as an adult, however briefly he may have been one, was fading from her memory—if she even really knew the adult David at all.
When she sat back down on the couch, she lay Dominic’s journal on her lap. She wrote: You say Maria’s father would kill you if he found out you’d slept with her–and you know he’s going to find out, right?– that he might send her away to Mexico, that everything could change for the worse for both of you, so why do you take that risk? Do you understand what you’re risking?
* * *
But he never wrote to her again. The next time she saw him was after school. Dominic hadn’t been in class and she had swallowed down panic all day, reminding herself that Dominic wasn’t David, that he was a man who had to find his way in the world. She was planning a lesson for Hamlet when he burst through her door. Before she even had a chance to look up and see who it was, he had thrown over a chair and was heading to toss another into the air when she reached him and touched his forearms.
“Dominic, calm down.” She turned him around to face her, and even though he struggled a bit he wanted to be turned around. She held onto his wrists with her encircled fingers and then slid them around his palms to cradle his hands. “What’s wrong,” she said. “Talk to me.”
His eyes were dilated with anger, big black openings into something ugly at his center, and she had the feeling that if she were someone else, he would kill her—and he could.
“Maria’s gone,” he said.
She pictured bullet holes, blood on a tile-floor, the white of skin turning blue, and for a moment she wanted him to shut up. “What do you mean, gone?”
“Her father sent her back to Oaxaca, to live with her uncle.”
“Sit down,” she said.
“Don’t wanna fucking sit down,” and he pulled his hands away from her.
She looked through the blinds of the classroom windows, out across a grassy quad towards a square of light that still shone from the prinicpal’s office.
“Okay, just don’t throw any more desks.” He said nothing. “Okay?” she said. “The furniture’s bad enough around here already.”
“You can’t call me Sarah here.” She closed the door to the classroom and then the blinds to the windows. She walked over to her desk, took a seat on top of it, and looked up towards him. “Take a breath and tell me what’s going on.”
“That bastard was waiting for me. Supposed to be at work, but he was waiting for me there on the porch. That’s how badly he wanted to fuck me over. He stayed home from work to tell me and they need the money, you know.” He walked across the room and leaned himself into the corner near the windows. He didn’t look at her, but spoke while staring at the empty desks, their faces scratched with crude messages. “When I saw him I knew things were bad, you know, so I got out and walked up the steps to where he was sitting. I tried to look in the house to see if Maria was looking out the windows, but then he said, ‘she’s not here, pendejo.’ He really did called me a pendejo and I wanted to hit him right then and there, but he’s her father, you know, and you don’t go hitting fathers. Then he said, and he smiled his rotting teeth when he said it, ‘Her plane left, oh,’ and he actually looked at his wrist watch, even though he knew the time, ‘about an hour and ten minutes ago.’ Then…” Dominic was silent, but lifted his head as if searching for something in his memory.
“You didn’t hurt him?”
“No, but I would have, easily. I said some things, some bad things, and I walked up the steps towards him and I would have beat the shit out of him, but he was ready.” He wiped at his eyes. “He had a baseball bat where I couldn’t see it and when I got up to the top step, he stood up and held that thing like he was Barry Bonds or somethin’. I could tell he wanted me to try and hit him, he was hoping for it. It was this big aluminum bat with a dent in the side.” He kicked the wooden cabinets with the heel of his shoe and looked at her. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
“You’re going to calm down first,” she said. “Then you’re coming with me.”
* * *
They left the classroom together, but split up once they were in the hallway. She told him to meet her around the corner from the parking lot, off campus property. If you were a female teacher you could be seen leaving campus with a girl, but not with a boy. She gathered up her bags, locked up her room, and had to walk by Roberta’s classroom to get to the parking lot. Roberta’s door was open when she passed and she sat at her desk, her nose buried in a stack of papers. Sarah slipped by without being noticed.
Dominic was waiting in the streetlight shadow of an oak tree, backed up against the trunk and smoking. It was the red point of the cigarette that gave him away and when she opened the car door she said, “Put that out before you get in here.”
He threw it on the ground and stomped it out with the ball of his shoe, a little too angrily, she thought, and got in the car.
She had no intentions at first, no direction, but she pointed her car south along Estudillo road, towards her house. It was silent for a while and out of the corner of her eye, she watched the passing streetlight turn from brightness to shadow and back again across Dominic’s lap. His face was turned away, looking out the window onto the blue streets and the dozens of intersections that led away into the night.
“I need a drink,” she said.
“When you’re twenty-one, kiddo,” she said.
He laughed. “Shit,” he said. “Fight for your country, but can’t have a beer.”
“Oh, where’ve you heard that one?” She turned to look at him. “You’re not dressed to go out.”
“Don’t start dissin’ the threads.”
“You’re coming over to my house,” she said. She thought he might refuse, say he had other things to do, people to meet, any old line to get away.
“No argument here,” he said.
She made him a drink. The house was dark and she watched him stand in the kitchen a moment, his hands in his pockets, looking around at the tiles, the kitchen sink all sparkly and silver underneath the light, the table strewn with pictures.
“Nice place,” he said. “A real nice crib.”
“Why don’t you try some English for a change.” She threw some ice in the glass, poured the drink, and handed it to him. He sniffed it. “Not poisoned,” she said.
“You never know these days,” he said. “Gin’s usually my juice.”
“Well, it’s vodka or sparkling water, kid.”
He smiled and took a sip. “Any juice is better than none,” he said. “You always bring students over for a drink?”
“This seemed to be a special occasion.” She finished pouring her own. “You’re not scared of an old lady English teacher are you?”
“Only if you’re giving me a grade.”
He walked into the living room and turned on a light. She watched him. He was like a cat checking his surroundings, looking behind chairs, glancing at the books stacked beneath the coffee table, walking along the walls and surveying the pictures. He stopped at a picture of David, leaned in, and stared for a moment. She couldn’t see it, but she knew which one it was. David standing next to his new car, the door open, him leaning on it like a lover and smiling.
“How old was he?” He didn’t look at her, but kept on staring.
She let silence creep in for a moment, imagined hearing David’s voice down the hall, and finished her drink.
“Sorry, you don’t have to answer that,” he said.
“There, sixteen,” she said. “Eighteen when…”
He glanced at her and she could tell he was adding things up, equating his life to the dead. He stood up and walked over to the kitchen table, near to where she stood, and looked at the pictures, the headlines, everywhere David’s eyes looking back.
“How long now?” He looked at her.
“Two years,” she said. “Well, going on three.”
She walked away and started making herself another drink. Out of the corner of her eye she could see him watching her.
“It’s a little weird, you know,” he said. “All of this.”
“Look,” she said. “You understand nothing about this, okay?” She stopped. “Don’t tell me how to miss him, and I won’t tell you how to miss her.”
“Right,” he said, and held up his hand in surrender. He sat down at the kitchen table, but she refused to join him and made him come into the living room and sit on the couch. He sat on the far end of it and she on the other.
“I’m going down there,” he said.
“Yeah. I got to.”
“No you’re not,” she said.
“I got to, you know.” He looked at her and his eyes starting filling and she was surprised once again at how full up this kid could be.
“Look,” she said. “Even if you find her, what’re you going to do? Stay down there and raise chickens with her in the jungle?” She leaned forward and put her hand on his knee. “If you bring her back here, her father’s waiting. She’s fourteen, Dominic, are you going to make her choose between you and her father?”
“She loves me,” he said.
“Maybe she does.” She waited a second and thought about not saying it. “But she’ll fall in love again, with someone else.” He stood up and looked down at her as if he might slap her. “And so will you.”
In his face she could see things collapsing inside of him, little doors closing and others he didn’t yet understand opening. He walked across the room and stood shaking his legs, his arms folded across his chest.
She stood and walked towards him, slowly like she would approach a wounded animal. She could see his eyes shining in the lamplight, and she knew he was trying to hold it back. From the other side of the room he was a huge man, football player size, but as she walked towards him he became smaller, his shoulders collapsing, his chest shrinking inward, and when she reached him his hands became small grasping things that held onto her, that pulled at the folds of her blouse. She wrapped herself around him and felt him growing smaller by heaves and sobs. And as she held him, there was something else, a hardness pressing against her stomach. She tried to ignore it, but it was there. She didn’t push him away, and while he cried she marveled at the confusion of his body, his ability to feel every possible thing at once.