“I don’t know.”
I look at myself in the mirror. Cloudy? I wipe the surface with my hand. There I am, underneath the dirt.
It’s barely 7 am. so my face looks like it was pulled out of a bucket where it was soaking in a vain attempt to remove stubborn stains.
Ugly but not unusual.
I pull out the cranberry muffins, pour milk, make coffee, while Noah watches a cartoon, thrown in full length abandon on the futon.
I sit down beside him, cradling my caffe latté. He reaches for the muffins on the low table before him, Roman style without sitting up.
“Noah, don’t eat in a supine position.”
I’m on a mission to expand his vocabulary beyond awesome, cool, hot, fail.
“Supine…means lying down with the face up.”
“Rhymes with Stoopid.”
“No, that’s alliteration… when the beginning of the words sound alike. Rhyming is when it’s the endings of words.”
“Suuuupper lame. Haha, that’s a joke about allitawhatever. Good one, hunh?”
Give the kid a break.
“Zakalaca. You know what that means, right dad?”
“Euh, means nothing because you just invented it?”
“How do you know?”
“Because it’s not in the dictionary.”
“Dad, you don’t know the whole dictionary.”
“I’ve been reading the dictionary ever since I learned to read. When I don’t know a word, I look it up and then I have fun looking up the funny words before and after. And I read the dictionary everyday, because I write every day.”
“No….not on like Saturdays and Sundays. Ha! Gotcha!”
Saturdays and Sundays are the days he tortures me full-time. But, to my credit, I hold back.
“So what does Zakalaca mean?”
I start laughing. He joins in. I’m not sure we see the same punchline but that’s not important.
He stares down the muffin in his hand before taking a monster sized bite. A cartoon character cracks a lame joke on the TV.
Noah throws me a side look to see how I react. I give a little laugh.
“Funny, huhn, dad?”
Actually, it’s lame as hell, especially since they are all reruns during the summer.
“Yeah, pretty funny.”
Lately, Noah has taken to glancing at me to check my reaction in a number of situations. Does he need reassurance?
Another lame TV joke, another side look. Tough not to be self-conscious. I rub his scrawny naked back. As I get up, I kiss the top of his head. Smells like a kid in summer, a mix of sunscreen, sweat, chlorine, candy and a pinch of dark spice.
Wonder what that spice is? The olfactory memory is just beyond grasp.
“Dad, are you okay?”
“Sure, Noah, why do you ask all the time?”
“I don’t know. You looked sad.”
“Not at all.”
Maybe a little.
“I was just thinking.”
‘Thinking makes you sad?”
“And you, does it make you sad?”
“Depends like uhm, what I’m thinking about. Like now I’m thinking about the Pokemon Pre-Release on Sunday and it’s awwwweesssssooomme.”
And he has an awesome expression to go with it. I pass in front of the mirror. It’s true that the default expression on my face is sadness.
A frown? Comical.
Anger? Bad acting.
My face goes back to default.
“Noah, do I look sad?”
He jumps up on the futon to see me at level.
“Yeah, dad, you look sad. Is everything okay?”
Damn, I don’t feel sad.
“Everything is A-okay, going to be an awesome day.”
“That’s a rhyme! Right dad?”
“Oh yeah, oh yeah, I’m da rhymin’ guy, oh yeah, oh, yeah.” He does a dance which for an adult would require a pole.
I smile. Throw a quick look at the mirror. Damn, it’s a sad smile. I wonder what I look like when I’m really sad.
Then again, it’s a Chaplin smile, a Garland smile. Withheld tears, courage, survival and always ready to be in love.
No that’s not true.
Not always ready to be in love … but actually, thoroughly, madly, always in love.