When I pick the boy up he tells me he’s had a hard day and asks for a hug. And I think then, of how the words I give in response could be some kind of respite, my arms, some kind of balm, and how with him, it is easy for me, because there is a way that all mothers know we are our children’s first home, that cave of body we carried them in, the way we made for them inside of us such space, how even now the circle of my arms rounds to hold him. There is a way my arms have learned to give him comfort, like on those long nights of his infancy, me walking while I held him, the hall illuminated by nightlight, that carpet I nearly wore grooves in until he yawned and slept.
And when I think of this, I think too of those other hallways I walked in dark while there were men who slept, the way my arms learned to give other kinds of comfort, the way I give pieces of myself to that boy, the way I gave pieces of myself to those men, wonder sometimes when walking the empty house in the dark what, if anything, of that comfort I had saved for me.
There are things I tell strangers on the internet that I tell almost no one in my actual life. Those in the private group for young widows I sometimes post to, the things of mine given away in blog posts or essays published in magazines, even the poetry published in journals. There are parts of me given away on pages and truths I bury in imagery and metaphor, and if you ask me to my face about any of them, I will probably lie. Or not lie, so much as not encourage, sidestep the issue, tell you other nearby truths instead of maybe the one you had asked for. Because I cannot tell you that I need you, even when I do. I cannot tell you that my hands need to hold something more substantial than air, heavier than that empty space, cannot say that I am tired of being a distinct and separate body, want to belong to something, cannot, like the boy, just ask for a hug.
He’s so small and yet it’s so easy for him. “I had a hard day.” See how he opens his mouth and the words, they just come out. On a night when I do say them, it is in a text to a friend but only after I think that friend has gone to sleep, when sending the text is nearly as little a risk as a blog post, since I expect no response, tell the friend that in the morning we can just pretend like I said nothing at all and that too will be okay. That I just wanted to get the words out. And when the friend responds almost immediately, asks if I want to talk, I am flustered, and grateful. Think I forget to say later how nice it had been to have been heard. To just say it, and have been heard.
And so when the boy asks me for another hug, I give it to him gladly, let him find comfort in the circle of my arms, hope that he will always feel free to keep on speaking. To just say it. To always just say it.
To believe he’ll be heard.