Two weeks ago, we went to brunch at the local ale house and I tried to nap before going to the airport. In a moment of clarity, Lily deleted all the data on her phone and gave it to Charlotte, her sister. In the two weeks that passed, Charlotte broke that phone and dropped another one in the toilet. I’d never heard her cry like that, a bottom-of-your-soul cry. In a moment of retail therapy, Dawn, Lily and Charlotte bought two new XR’s for the price of one at the AT&T kiosk. Dawn explained how the promo works (you pay for the phone and they discount the cost back over 30 months), but it was too complicated and I didn’t care. Charlotte was pressuring me to get one too, so she could claim the free one. Then, all four of us would have the new XR’s and could whip them out in public.
Sometimes Dawn and I fantasized about packing up and moving away. Selling the house, traveling, a simpler life. But we were in our peak earning period and weren’t sure how much we needed, for how long, if we could still get work. It would remain a fantasy until we got the kids through school and out of the house.
Lily was feeling down so Dawn and I both slept in her room, and next door Charlotte had a friend over (Anna), of eastern European origin and small stature, who also has an XR. Because the XR is larger than most smartphones, it makes Anna look even smaller. They were still awake at 4 in the morning giggling each time I went to the door to tell them lights out, and I realized I should have taken their phones away but I wasn’t thinking right.
We all had strange dreams and replayed them in the morning, Lily, Dawn and me. Lily thought she’d passed through hell but realized even though it looked like heaven, it was still hell. There was a voice in black gauze following her, she said. We made plans for the day and I walked to the lake, then lay on my back looking at the sun coming through the trees, making strands of spider webs reflect in the air, the ‘silver lining.’ And I went back to my comfort and self-soothing music, a record called The Colour of Spring.
“Happiness is Easy,” and “Life’s What You Make It.”
Though I looked older I still felt the same on the inside. My face had gotten rounder, flatter, more lines. Before, my face had sharp edges to it but now it looked like a raw egg splayed out in a pan. I had to regard it those rare times on FaceTime. FaceTime was like a confession I never made, having to look at myself in a small box. I looked like my dad and he’d always looked older to me, probably because he was my dad. I’m sure I aged him too, weighing him down like branches on a tree, making it stronger in places but closer to breaking too. Maybe that’s love (a form of dependency), swinging on each other’s arms, getting taller each year, the roots holding everything in place for when the wind blows and the heavy snows weigh us down.
In the dream my beard had gone solid white with no color left, and reminded me of that scene with Gandalf and the Balrog in the pit where Gandalf disappears for a time, for the battle of his life against that evil wizard, and returns whitened and elevated, reborn. I had to think that was possible for us still too.