I walk out onto the porch with Poppy and Leo on a Sunday afternoon, the kind that convinces us spring still exists and is, in fact, not that far off. There are tiny mounds of snow in the shadowy places of the world, but the sky is blue and people walk by on James Street wearing light jackets–not the heavy, winter coats I’ve seen going past for the last three or four months.
“Let’s say where the cars are going,” 4-year-old Leo says, his voice also bearing hints of the coming season. I think I know what he means. I wait for the next car to approach. It is an old, gray Honda.
“That car’s going to the place where we get hair cuts,” he says. Another car approaches. “That car’s going to the movies.”
As each car passes, Leo makes up an imaginary destination. The library. Penny’s Ice Cream shop. The mall.
“Maybe we should give Poppy a turn,” I say, and he agrees. We have to wait a bit, but when the next car comes by, we both turn our eyes towards her with expectation.
“That car’s going to a house,” she says in her raspy, high-pitched, 2-year-old voice, grinning a Cheshire grin and looking at us with questions in her eyes, wondering if she did it right.
“Mimi’s house?” I ask. She nods.
“Nice one, Poppy,” I say, and we stand there, getting colder as the afternoon passes. Maile comes out, stands there in her coat, still wearing her house slippers. And the cars go by.
* * * * *
Sunday night, three in the morning, and a small hand pats my blankets. A small voice whispers, “Dad, I’m scared.”
“Of what?” I ask, not sure what time it is, not sure what planet I’m on.
“I’m just scared.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I whisper, my voice hoarse. I cough.
“I’m scared,” Leo insists. I sigh.
“Want to sleep with me on the floor?” I ask. I know if I bring him into bed, none of us will get any sleep. He nods in the dark. I grab a few pillows, a few blankets, and we make a bed on the floor.
I fall asleep, his tiny hand on my shoulder.
* * * * *
A few days later I am working at Prince Street Cafe when Maile comes in with the kids. Leo is very pleased to see me sitting at one of the high tables, and he climbs up, perches there, staring at my computer.
“Are you working?”
“Yes, I am.”
He looks at the large glass windows. “Those windows look like you could put your hand through them, like a waterfall,” he observes. And he is right. The glass is clean. The day is clear.
I lean towards him.
“I like when you come to visit me,” I say.