My husband has put in two years at the shop, becoming skilled at auto repair, bad puns, and Mexican Spanish. Sometimes he does all three at once. My boy likes to pretend he's a mechanic too: Come to my shop and I'll fix your car! he says. I need to find my other wrench. Oh, now I'm done! That'll be six hundred dollars! I'm glad he's so taken with it; someday we'll sit at the kitchen table and make little machines that meow or zap or spin like I did when I was little. I remember the first Rube Goldberg device I ever saw - an illustration on the back of a cover of Newsweek. I think it was an ad for Bacardi - this long crazy machine that ended with a gloved hand pouring the bottle. (I think, did I say? Of course it was Bacardi. Maybe that's half the reason I love rum cake so much, come to think of it.) I spent hours and hours year after year drawing increasingly complicated gadgets to perform the most mundane of tasks. Cars were an absolute wonder to me. To look under the hood and try to follow the transfers of energy, -I remember the day I understood the combustion engine like it was yesterday!- to try to understand how so many functions occurred simultaneously, perfectly, each mechanism purring, turning, firing, injecting...I felt like Charlie getting to see inside the factory. And my husband, he got to work next to Wonka himself in the hands-down-best shop in the world. And he knew I thought it was awesome; he would come home at night with his stained hands and casually mention calipers and pistons and trannies, a smug little half-smile on his lips, looking at me out of the corner of his eye. Now he's off to become a teacher-man. He'll come home and regale me with stories like McCourt's, and we'll sit at night scheming what to do about those punk kids, and he'll wear a skinny black neck tie and carry himself with swagger. It's time, I suppose. It's definitely time. But thank you don Omar, for these heckuvagreat couple of years.
of what the rest of us feel. A little crazy! A little unfurled! Undone and wild and definitely not regular. Matthew's been gone for two days working for the Man, and the rest of us have been juggling babies and boxes and work, trying to pack, trying to get some semblance of order in these disorderly times. One more day for me to pack, and then I go to the hospital and meet my babyboy. Matthew will see an apartment during his lunch break, work until he's allowed to leave, and then hurry down here - hopefully in time to remind me how to breathe, hopefully in time to see his son before anyone else. What is going on? Right? As the Flaco said the other day, "I do absolutely not know."
Tonight we sat saturated in dimness thick heavy warm pressing us to our porch milky black-grey air too still to carry the smell of hay crickets, thousands of crickets in front of us, beside us, all around louder the longer you listen lazy shrill urgent fireflies hanging above the corn fields like dew on grass off and on, splitting the darkness like a sharp pencil through paper coyotes, dozens of them broken hearts laid bare so close we shut the little dog in behind the screen door. We stayed. so loud and mute in front of us, everything writhing and flat our tired bones crushed down surrounded by so much space
I wonder when it happens, when they first understand a word or a phrase. I wonder if it's a sparkling sensation, like Helen Keller with her hand under that cold flow of water. I'm stuck on Arabic because I love that thrill, the sudden click of understanding. Sound dividing into recognizable words, syntax and grammar falling into place, making new places in the mind that didn't exist before. There are languages where an entire sentence is formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to a single root word; there's another where no nouns exist, only verbs. And the brain can hold it, can flex and bend and process it, can attach itself to patterns so seamlessly that it doesn't even bother to remember the moment. (And moreso, can reformat itself to fit new languages that don't come close to having a one-to-one translation.) I speak to my girl in Spanish and some English and broken Arabic and it's probably terribly unfair to make her little ears take in so much at once, but I can't help it. We marvel at it together, the moments when I say "Come hold my hand" or "Traeme un libro" or "Btebi tishrabi haleeb?" and she responds and we both realize it's a wonder. We marvel, we marvel at something marvelous; which speaking of words, is a word in my mouth that feels like spongey, fluffy candy from Wonka's factory. Delicious and so rich. Worth running with little bare feet to the table for.
and a few hot Italian sausages in a frying pan; a little plate of oranges cut up into slices. I said "Flaco, it's almost time to eat! Hop onto your chair!" I heard little feet hurry to the table and the chair roll out. I came to the dining room carrying his glass of milk and there she was! Little bintu was sitting in a chair, pleased as pie, waiting for her supper. She understands so much now!
One time Matthew was walking down the street with a pair of headphones on. I was headed somewhere else on a different sidewalk, but I saw him and stopped. I stood and watched for a minute, taking in his frame. He was kind of hunched forward, high-stepping, clapping some sort of syncopated beat as he walked. He must have had that sense you get when you realize someone's staring at you, because he suddenly stopped and looked around. He didn't see me, but rightfully guessed anyway that someone was nearby. Deciding to play it cool, as if he was just walking in a regular manner, he switched his clapping to finger-snapping and continued on his way. Still high-stepping. He looked like he had stepped out of a West Side Story, moments away from a switchblade dance number; hands dropping from shoulder-level to waist with each snap. After watching for a while longer, I darted across the street and stole his headphones so that he could more clearly hear me laugh at him. . I had almost forgotten this until the other day when I went in for a check-up for Mr. Unnamed. The doctor asked the standard questions (feet swelling? does he move much?) and that asked if I had anything I wanted to bring up. Why yes! I said. My son makes a clicking sound! A clicking sound? he asked. Like, if your husband has his head on your belly he can hear something? No no, I said. We'll be talking and all of a sudden we both hear it, pretty loud, this sort of smacking sound... I tried to make the noise but couldn't do it with my mouth. Like he's snapping his fingers? my doctor asked. Yes! I said. That's the sound exactly! He laughed and shrugged and said he very might well be, I might be having a finger-snapping son. I drove the whole way home picturing Matthew strutting down the street, remembering how I had walked circles around him, snapping, exaggerating his motions even more, my mockery almost making him late for work. Picturing a little newborn in his little newborn cap bobbing his head, snapping; a tiny little Matt. I had heard screaming in the hospital during my appointment, I'm not lying, some woman in the delivery section about to hold her baby for the first time. And I was jealous, so jealous. I can't wait to meet my jaunty little son.