I resist bravely the need to get up. Two reasons: I want to stay in bed and sleep and if I get up Noah will wake and the last shreds of nighttime will be history.
Finally, the body has its reasons that the mind cannot resist. I wheel myself out of my room as quietly as possible, without banging against any walls. I whizz in the toilet, around the water in the bowl to avoid the Niagara Falls effect… an old trick learned when I was a kid.
When I got up for a leak, I desperately avoided rousing my Mother who slept like a cat, her ears twitching, ready to pounce at the faintest sound. If she heard me, I would have to answer myriad questions about what I was doing, why I was doing it and what it meant to be doing it in the middle of the night.
My Mother’s specialty was making you feel guilty about something and everything without any specifics.
I move out of the bathroom and peek into Noah’s room. His bed is empty. Only then do I notice that the lights are on all over the house. I step into the living room.
Noah is on the couch, curled up in a blanket, snoring. The cat is stretched out on top of him. It yawns and stares at me. Go to bed, it says, I’ve got it covered. Cats know a thing or two about kids, so I listen and and go to bed.
I guess I fall asleep instantly, since when the alarm shrills away at 7 a.m., it feels like the moment after.
Noah is still snoring on the couch. The cat stretches and yawns, clawing at the blanket.
Noah wakes with a start…cat’s claws are sharp. Just ask my Mother.
He has the mark of a wheel on his cheek….part of a broken toy on the couch. His eyes are wide, he’s lost. He stares at me… probably wondering what this large ugly ogre wants. He swallows a few times.
The cat sidles up and rubs itself against him. Noah pets its head absentmindedly, still not quite out of whatever mist he’s lost in.
I decide to be a dad and not a mom…. I say nothing and go make myself coffee.
I hear the kid whizzing up a storm in the toilet bowl. He has not learned to mask the noise.
He stumbles into the kitchen.
I tender a glass of water. He drinks it without a word.
Silence. In the morning. With Noah. I look for a calendar…red letter day.
He walks away, trailing the cat. The coffee roars up the stalk of the Moka coffee maker in that delightful “raaaaaaaahhhh” steam sound that, in and of itself, tickles my neurons.
I hear Noah feeding the cat. Wow. Efficient and still not a word.
I make him a toasted buttered bagel with a slice of cheese and warm a glass of milk.
I carry his breakfast to the table in the living room that has become the center of our life together. I give him his antacid pill and settle down beside him with my bowl of coffee and dry cookies, for dunking.
Noah still has not said a word, nor turned on the TV.
The toy-wheel mark on his cheek is almost gone. His eyes are now clear. The cat is feeding noisily in the bathroom. Noah rubs the two halves of the bagel together to spread the butter.
“There was this squid…” He starts and stops.
“…and everybody was screaming..’giant squid, giant squid’ and running by me and like I wasn’t scared at all because when the squid finally came like you know through this tunnel, oh yeah, we were in a spaceship, yeah so…when he came he had teeth and was talking but you know what? he wasn’t giant at all. He was just like big like me. So I like said to myself, ‘this is a dumb dream, he’s not giant at all, he’s just a dumb squid like very other dumb squid’…. yeah and then I woke up.”
“But Noah, dumb squids like every other dumb squids don’t have teeth and don’t talk.” Not to mention the spaceship.
He munches his bagel,then stares it down as if the poor dumb thing is somehow challenging him.
“Dad, you don’t understand…because it’s like my dream.”
I nod. I imagine telling my Mother that she didn’t understand which meant “leave me alone”. She would have meowed and clawed me to shreds.