On Saturday night, I fall asleep ragged-breathed and spotted with uncomfort. Eleven has come to spend the night -- an older boy, two-and-some years older than my oldest, a fast friend for these three months. They have a language already, they both say, "LITerally," they chant phrases they love together, they both have long eyelashes and sweet faces and thick wavy hair. Give them a half-decade, and they'll be slaying hearts as they now slay stick figures Eleven scribbles in red and black on the DSi, animating with sweet conviction.
Eight, he is, my own boy. Not ready for this other one. They know it; they have reacted to my quiet limits with quiet outrage, singsong, at first one at a time and then in unison. I have to bar the door, at midnight, for a moment so they will not go running out into the wet night without shoes, going where? "Around the block." They erupt in laughter. No.
I dream. I must get up early and I have done battle these three hours with foes who look evenly at me with a small smile and say, 'No. Way.' and I dream. I dream that they have been up and down and up and down the stairs again, that they have watched a scandalous movie, that they have looked at me, giggling, and told me that my food was poisoned. 'You want me to DIE?' Eleven asks. Happily. I dream that I am waking; I dream that they are walking brazenly out into the night and day, needless and heedless of me, of parenting, trolling bars for girls and vampires, maybe. I do not remember what I dream but there is copious blood, abundant blame.
When I wake they are sleeping, buried deep and quiet in white wool blankets and unbothered by the happy little ones, pounding up and down stairs, leaping off beds and couches, shouting and throwing stuffed animals, some who are super, and must scream as they fly. They sleep, until I must wake them, tell them to eat pancakes. My boys have eaten with appetite and tell me the pancakes are delicious, but Eleven takes a bite. "It tastes like spinach," he says. And that is that.
I cannot say I do not count the hours until he takes his leave. I talk with my boy after his friend has gone, ask questions that seem to have no useful answer. He almost whispers. He is all inside. He wants to sleep alone.
Youngest calls to him, his voice creaking in sadness, and I go and tell him so. Eight crawls into bed next to his little brother and when I have finished reading I lie there, too, it is not what my friends from high school or even my husband would do, sleep together with boys in a heap, but we keep our own counsel, still against the rainy-pavement night. When I sleep I do so deeply.
When I wake, Eight has returned to his room alone, and I do not wonder at the break but observe it. I am in the museum of my family and I am skirting this work, looking at it in silence and from every perspective and a great removal of time. I am not sure if its worth is in its ability to astonish, or in its technical excellence. There is a time for every season; there is meaning or there is not meaning to everything under the sun. And a man will take himself from his family and cleave...
He has told me he does not believe in God. He has told me that he does not believe in the tooth fairy or the easter bunny or Santa Claus or God and I have discussed this evenly but he has told me, "Mom. You can't MAKE me believe in anything," as if that was my goal.
He now sleeps in a room by himself every night; he keeps his own counsel; he is own sculptor, own clay. And I, unsure of my own experience in this genre, can not even criticize.