I’m scared to go to the door. All I have to do is walk to the steps and pick up a package that was delivered there mistakenly, but I haven’t stopped here since I sold the house and even before that I couldn’t bear to go there anymore. I only made it into the backyard once, running the whole way through. I didn’t want to stop and look at where he might have fallen, the steps where he died. I never wanted to see him at all after he died, and so I didn’t. I wanted instead to remember him as he had been in life. But the last time I saw him alive, on this walkway I walk up now, not a single word he’d say to me. Is this alternative better? This memory I can conjure up of him more easily than his smile?
Wordless, unexpected leavings—they are always the worst. No way to ease into that kind of ache, like the progression of summer into fall when all the brightness fades from trees, like the progression of fall into winter, whose coldness we expect.
My son remembers the color of his room, but not that yard. Not blowing bubbles there or pushing around leaves on the deck with a broom, not the snow suit he scooted around in for winter, not the pots of vegetables nor the iris, the rose, not the barbecues where friends gathered around a table and listened to a stereo we pulled outside for the occasion, not the sound of cars driving too fast up and down the alley. Not the yard. He remembers only the window, remembers only the walls.
So he doesn’t remember the man, walking away from the car where we sat on that last day either. Doesn’t remember his back, doesn’t get to live with his silence, the way men keep handing it to me as though it were gift.
“I liked our old house better,” he says later that night, as I’m putting him to bed.
“Why is that, buddy?” I ask, afraid he’ll name his father as reason, afraid we’ll sit together tonight on the carpet in sadness again after what has been a generally good day.
“Because green’s my favorite color, and my old room was green. I want my room to be green now.”
“Ask me again when it’s summer, and we’ll paint it together,” I say, relieved, “Just remember to ask me again.”
Ask me again, when there aren’t still pockets of forgotten leaves tucked near concrete steps.
Ask me again, when winds don’t ache of winter, don’t ache of bodies and men I once knew.
Ask me again, dear heart, how much I love you. I promise I’ll always answer.
For you, I’d make the whole world green.