Sinking down into the hardness
of the seat on the “El”
I close my eyes and
try to rest as the humidity climbs
and the rocking of the train
lulls me into a false sense of peacefulness.
In the darkness, the world roars past me
and for a little while, I am not thinking, not feeling…
I just exist on this train.
Sudden stops and doors opening and closing.
Legs of lead carry me home:
past a sea of featureless faces.
past brilliant neons, the billboards,
past the blinking stop-and-go lights of city streets
where rainbows glisten
on oil-slick macadam in the warm summer rain.
Past smoky bistros that buzz with chatter
Where saffron-colored notes float in the jazzy air
and sidewalk cafes are filled
with couples sipping wine, red and white.
Opening the door to our brick row house,
my gaze falls upon a room
filled with wilting flowers,
a subtle reminder of the beautiful life
that seeped away as if drop by drop.
The easy days when we were a family
before I decided he had to leave,
those final days, long and sad,
when I just couldn’t breathe anymore
without mechanically making it happen.
I hear footsteps on the flagstone –
light footsteps running, running.
I turn towards the door,
smiling through a wet mask of tears,
knowing that soon I’ll have to
split my time with him
and share this curly-headed mass of sunshine
that now is bursting
through the door of the kitchen,
hurling himself into my waiting arms,
wrapping himself around me,
asking me if I had a good day.
I pour him a glass of ice-cold milk
and offer some sugar and butter cookies
that Grandma made for us.
Perhaps a ripe, red apple for me
and a cup of herbal tea to help me relax.
I look at the mouth edged in cookie crumbs
and a milk moustache up to his nose,
and I know why I can be strong,
why I must go on alone,
yet not alone,
different but the same somehow.
And in that smiling face,
the one that is smiling back at me right now,
Is my joy,
my steady heartbeat.
And that’s all that matters!