It could have been so hot out that I imagined my Daddy driving all the way from South Carolina with the windows down, his hair slicking back all 8 hours home to Alabama. He could have been gone for work-training so long that Mama gave up and let us eat brown sugar with a spoon. When my brothers fought, she could have let them just “work it out.” My sister and I could have been allowed to play outside in the dark way after the whippoorwill started calling. It could have been so cold out that the wind shepherded the brown leaves into secret places, us in our puffy coats. We could have been so cold that no one went out to adjust the television antenna.
I don’t remember.
I just know that he had been gone, and then he came back to us, and he walked up on the dark front porch and through the door, and we were squealing and jumping, the four of us so excited that we climbed up all 6 feet and 6 inches of him. He gave the boys some toys, and then he had for me and Erin either a small porcelain jewelry box or a stone-washed blue jean purse, and we said, “thank you” and then clinked at the porcelain lid and unzipped coin pockets, and as we did
he stood over her like unrelenting humidity. Mama had been on the bed so proud of our gifts, and he leaned in, and her arm came up, and I expected them to hug,
but it wasn’t that. They kissed without breathing, and I thought he was going to climb inside her mouth. I worried they forgot we existed. It went on so that we stood watching, our own breaths sucked up like that still green air before the funnel cloud.
Though I had never questioned it before, I knew in that moment that he loved her, and he wanted her, and she was extraordinary. I had a grown-up thought of her work loads and her lonely, and I saw, with my eyes, her spirit syphon from him, and the more she took, the less empty he became.
I do believe it was summer. We slept like we had just turned on the pull of the box fans. We slept that night like we floated on secure night water.
For more Stories in My Pocket, check out Joanne at Mylestones.