The daylight filters through the cloud cover this morning and the air is cool enough to cause the exhaust from the Suburban in front of me to cloud, which creates a misty morning feeling. How bizarre for me to find solace in this. I see a couple of high school kids walking on the sidewalk to my right; as I drive closer, they wrap their arms around each other tightly. The boy strokes her arm as if to warm her, clearly showing his affection. I turn my head to look at them as I pass, and upon seeing their gazes toward the sidewalk and their young faces, I’m burned with nostalgia. “Why can’t I have that?” I wonder. In my late thirties and still alone, I spend nights reading scholarly books to finish my Master’s in Creative Writing while drinking Sleepytime tea and listening to talk radio. The memories of my distant teen-hood still haunt me: when I could find a new lover every week and let him go just as fast. My sons are in their teens now, my oldest is nineteen and my youngest seventeen, and the sting of loneliness I felt when they were little comes back in the evenings when they shut themselves in their rooms and listen to their music. My boys are not like I was, sleeping around and doing drugs and screaming at my mother; they keep to themselves mostly. I occasionally hear something about a girl, but I think they find it slightly embarrassing to talk to me about girls. They walk to school, and now I wonder if maybe they share their walks with someone special; I can’t help but hope that they do despite fears of grandmother-hood.
We moved to the mountains when I went to Graduate school; the boys were five and three. I chose Colorado because of a story my father used to tell me about his Spring Break days in college; he and his friends would stomp their skis in the snow and shout: “Spring Break, Spring Break,” while drinking beer. I like beer and I always wanted to ski, so I moved here but never learned how to ski. I often gaze at the Front Range from my porch swing, in my bathrobe and slippers, with a foot tucked up under one thigh, and drink tea while imagining that my father is up there pounding back beers and laughing with his friends. I’m cursed because of him, the way he raised me, with women in and out of my life every other week and his obsessive drinking. I never learned how to commit; he died alone. “Will I die alone?” I wonder as the Suburban turns left toward the middle school and the mist engulfs my car. I wish that when it clears I will find myself in some other life where there is a man in my passenger seat smiling and holding my leg.
“Mom, are you okay?” asks Damien, the older of the two. I am sitting in the living room on the couch, staring at the wall.
“Yea, baby, what’s up?” I say blinking.
“You just seem sad today.”
“I’m sorry darlin’. I just feel lonely; I should probably go for a walk.” I feel bad that he has to see me like this, all apathetic.
“Can I come too?” he asks with a furrowed brow.
“Of course,” I say, taken aback; I don’t remember the last time we went on a walk together.
The air tonight is cool like it was this morning and the sun is setting to our left as we stroll down the sidewalk. Damien’s hair is getting long; it swoops in front of his eyes. He pulls a beanie out of his jacket pocket and puts it on, pushing his bangs to one side. Our breath crystalizes in the air as we walk slowly past the houses on our block. The warm light of the house window to my left captures my attention. I see a couple in their living room chatting and smiling; the man is holding her by the waist and she is leaning back against him playfully. “Why can’t these images leave me alone?” I wonder. “What is it about today?” I think.
“What are you looking at, Mom?”
“Just the people in that house,” I reply. He leans his head forward to see around me.
“Oh,” he says, dropping his eyes. “So Mom, can we, like, make dinner or something soon, as a family?”
“Yea sure, what are you thinking?” I ask, surprised that my son is initiating a family dinner.
“I don’t know; I just want you to meet someone.” My heart drops with surprise and excitement: a girl, he has met a girl and he wants to bring her home.
“Okay,” I say smiling. “I’ll make cherry pork chops. Sound good?”
“Yea, that sounds great.” His big blue-green eyes light up as he looks into mine; I can tell he is relieved. I giggle a little and nudge him with my elbow. He laughs and sticks his hands in his pockets, smiling at the ground like that boy I saw this morning. All of a sudden my heart is sick; I love him so much, my first-born son. I realize that this boy is becoming a man, a handsome and kind man, the kind I need in my life, and that he will be going off to live on his own; this year may be the last one that he lives with me. “You think you’re lonely now; just wait until the house is truly empty,” I think to myself, as I watch him. I suddenly grab him in a hug and the loneliness washes from me. He hugs me back, not trying to pull away, and I sense that he too feels some sadness at leaving.
“I love you, dude,” I say to him.
“I love you too, Mom.”