Something Bright

In white winter I buy bright flowers, a spot of summer against the beige of otherwise ordinary indoors. The boy and I photograph these, and the new nightlight, its little lights like stars on the wall. I photograph him too, his smile, all the strange shapes he arranges his face in, the cap of dark hair on his head bristling with static. He rubs a balloon against it, then touches the balloon to the wall where it stays for nearly an hour until his running through the room dislodges it; buoyed by the air currents, it drifts and settles on carpet.

I buy bright flowers in white winter, two bouquets, place them in ordinary jars on ordinary counters, call them beacons, their centers matching the yellow of my sweater, the one my son wears; long, it drapes behind him like some kind of superhero’s bright cape and I photograph this too. “Mommy,” he says, “you’re the best,” and, later, “your legs are like hedgehogs,” and I think this too, is intended as a compliment, and I know I will remember this, long after the faces of men in bars who tell me I am pretty fade, the small boy in his small voice saying to me, “Your legs are like hedgehogs. I love you, porcupine.”

There are bright flowers, bouquets of them, their aroma spiking the air in the kitchen where I make ordinary dinners on ordinary days, the boy with his games, us on the couch watching movies with dancing penguins or building lego houses for plastic animals that I must make talk.

Bright flowers indoors and outside there is just cold, and there is just winter, and there are just spaces where I am sometimes lonely, where I walk around in rooms filled with people, where I learn to laugh at their jokes and meet their eyes, where sometimes, I am even charming, where sometimes, it is me making someone laugh. And when I am in those spaces I want to save laughter like it is a scrap of summer I must savor, the thing that will get me through winter, see me through clear to the other side.

But not theirs. Only that remembered. Only the laughter of that small boy in rooms filled with blooms. Only the laughter of that man, his voice now gone. Or that of someone I might yet meet, who might feel like home. Feel like summer. Feel like something bright and waiting.

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