The boy draws pictures in the snow, green and red and blue. Pollock-like in his painting, he prefers swirls of color and cast-off droplets to more recognizable shapes. He wears a Star Wars hat and mismatched mittens, the blue jacket from last winter. He’s grown taller but no less lean, and each day when I send him off on the bus he seems somehow smaller and yet older than I imagined.
And even when he gives me his back and climbs those steps, he still looks more like that man than me. The one that, like Darwin with his birds, I studied to distraction. In summers gone by there were nights when insect chorus lit the lawn with sound. When that man and I were countries with shared borders, a continent of selves beneath sheets and as he slept I watched him, watched too the moon-dark fists of clouds bracketing the windows above our bed, a skein of star lights twisting out beyond them. Nearly three years gone and I can still feel it, how it had been to hold my hand to his back while he breathed.
And I can remember also myself in those days, before it went wrong, lit on the inside as if by some dumb fire, the way, even banked, even when embers, there were days my whole self seemed ablaze. I can remember myself incandescent because this is the way it feels to have been seen. Even if only briefly, to have been seen and been accepted all the same.
I should not fault that other one for not seeing me, or perhaps, for seeing but not valuing what was there. Because these days I give each friend the parts they wish from me and not the rest, as if handing one that blue on the lawn, as if handing another the green. And so I am never whole with anyone.
But with him, maybe I had tried. Tried handing him all my colors, their swirls and arcs and eddies.
Tried handing him that red, red center one might have called a heart.