I passed around the block again today after dropping-off the little one at school, after I watched him walk over to where the morning line forms, place his backpack on the ground and then walk-wander out onto the playground obviously looking for someone to approach and greet for the day, offer something some comment or something and then begin his day with companionship or something…and there was nobody nearby so he ran further out into the playground with head and eyes up and still searching for a familiar face that would be welcoming of him and his morning presence…and he couldn’t find one…as he looked around and peered back at me across the way…looking for someone and finding none and looking at me or in my direction again…and there were no kids by me…and he walked about slowly, heading back to the line-up area and probably glad that the bell rang telling everyone to come in from the yard and get in their places on the concrete and line…and was it a relief? I don’t know. He’s alone inside himself and around others sometimes and a lot of times. It resonates with me, somehow. He was alone amidst dozens and more of kids, his peers, classmates, age-mates and then. I don’t know if he was lonely, though. I don’t know if he’ll be lonely for the three hours that he’s there today, as it’s early-release day…that thing that comes once a month and rescues him from the classroom and whatnot of being at school and around and among those that he doesn’t really relate to, somehow….he sees their faces but doesn’t entirely know what their expressions mean…he responds to their anecdotes by telling something of his own that may or may not have anything to do with what they were talking about…I have a helicopter. He’s in his gray-green hooded and furred parka with his Transformer’s backpack and his pocketed blue jeans and green and black Sketchers tennies that used to light-up when he walked or stamped his feet and his gray eyes search the bricks on the side of the school wall and I see his hooded self turn and talk to his teacher who is bending attentively to listen to him as she continues to look around, not like his teacher last year who would fix her eyes on and attend to only him or whomever when she was listening and talking to him or whomever, and I wondered what it meant this morning, did he start the exchange or did she? Is he telling her about “wouldn’t it be cool to find the sail-shaped spine bone thing from the back of a stegosaurus?” or something like that, or is it that today really is early-release so it’s ok that he doesn’t have a lunch today unlike last Thursday when I didn’t pack him one because the calendar from his teacher wrongly identified last Thursday as early-release and she had to call me on my cell as I was watching the time as I wandered through the book store so I could go get him and rescue him from the confines and duty of school when he really wanted to be home on his own computer or talking to his dog or asking for more taquitos and “Can I please watch Tom and Jerry and the Magic Ring because that’s what I always do when I’m eating taquitos.” He turned and looked for me again today as he was making that last round of a corner and into the school…and waved. He does that sometimes…not always…and I never know when he’s going to do it, so I always stay and watch until he’s inside and beyond my sight, or beyond where he can see me, just in case. It would be sad if he turned to wave goodbye and I wasn’t there. What would he think?
Innocence smiles large as the boys rescue The Cube and ride their motorized scooter and roller-blades about the cul-de-sac, announcing to me in passing that they are on their way to destroy Megatron. Hood up on his sweatshirt jacket, my little one is on the roller-blades and moves awkwardly about, wheel-walking, not rolling, strange dance of plastic and clatter rushing off to secure some imagined zone.
The December sky is gray with fat and heavy clouds; an occasional breeze or gust of wind ripples the overgrown palm fronds and the garbage truck is making its Tuesday afternoon rounds in the neighborhood a couple streets in the distance. My grandson is on the motorized scooter and is wearing orange, star-shaped sunglasses to shield him against the glare of battle in his efforts to defeat the Transformers’ foes. My little one’s enthusiasm for the game is waning as a little trio of afternoon walkers enter and make a circuit of the cul-de-sac – a young mother-girl pushing her baby in a stroller as grandmother walks with her Down’s Syndrome old-man of a son in a straw cowboy hat who marvels at the Samoyed who is sticking his nose and white head through the hole at the bottom of the neighbor’s backyard wall. The cling-cling of the bicycle bell and the metallic crash as the bike crunches into the sidewalk and the garbage truck is still a few streets away.
“Can we go in now?”
“Don’t you want to play two-player on the Nintendo?” he says, as he kneels in the rocks and examines a pigeon feather, “Don’t you want to?”
“No, not really.”
“Dad, can we go inside in 15 minutes?”
He likes to orient things and events and know when they are going to happen. It helps him predict his world. He’s happier and less anxious that way. It settles his mind as the blanket of gray clouds part and roll into white balls with gray bottoms and a mini-bike just ripped and popped down the street behind us, throwing angry and irritating ripples and waves through the neighborhood air.
“How long has it been, Dad?”
I’m reading my new book, The Good Soldiers, between glances up and into the cul-de-sac and at the Transformer warrior-children and vehicles entering for deliveries or exiting for errands and whatnot.
“How much longer?”
“The post is loose on the scooter, Grandpa,” as he sucks the winter snot back into his nose and as the little one, his uncle, my youngest, talks to his dog through the side-yard gate….
“Hi Wilson,” sing-song, puppy-talk, baby-talk, talking-to-my-dog-through-the-gate-talk, sing-song “Hi buddy!”
Crunching gravel, walking scuffing, scraping, and dragging shoes through the landscaping stones. Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! A piece of gravel rock on the basketball pole. Ping! Ping! Ping!
“How much longer, Papa? How mucho longa?”
I’m on page 27…For now, no one touched the tape dispenser. Eventually, Cummings would begin swatting flies just hard enough to stun them, stick them to a piece of tape, and drop them alive into his trash can, which would be something that did have an effect. “I hate flies,” he would say each time he did this. What?
“Is it time yet?”
Did you park your bike and scoot it all the way over so Mom can open her door after she’s parked the car?
“Are you done Blakie? Hey!”
“Do you want to go in now?”
Cling! Cling! Cling! “Beep beep!”
“There’s a warning.”
“There’s a warning.”
What kind of warning?
“There was a rain drop.”
And the garbage truck is getting nearer and the little one is dragging his toes across the driveway and he’s got a Kool-aid moustache as he grins at me and says “What?”
“How many more minutes? Dad?” as he stands on the apache-red boulder rock in his one-legged pose with his arms raised like a stork’s wings…from The Karate Kid…and a game of chicken in the roadway as my grandson comes at him on the motorized scooter…and repeated “Yaaaaah!” screams and “How much longer?” asked with a Pink Panther French accent this time.
“Hhow mush longherre?”
“Ok……Blakie!! It’s time to go in!”