“Friday Morning, Long Island”
by Michael Howerton
Sitting in bed this morning, wrapped in our blue and white sheets, I can see through the window the exact spot in the yard where I plan to build the studio. It will be our club house where I can paint and you can write and we can make love when the house is buzzing with children in the afternoons. We will be able to glimpse the sparkle of the Long Island Sound from the side window.
I keep thinking of a poem you wrote last spring, just before you became pregnant, the one with the line, “From that first shrouded encounter, clearer and clearer it comes, my love, overwhelmed.” Do you think it is possible, that after nearly a decade together with new life, we might experience love the same? You ask me sometimes if I think we love each other the same. You mean it as a matter of degree, but I wonder more about the ways we each absorb life. We will never know the answer, of course, for as much as we confront life together, we have to confront each other alone.
You are writing now, downstairs in the kitchen. I can tell because the kettle is whistling without relief. Once you finish the line you will hear it. Up here the screech sounds like a November wind, the furious kind which throws leaves past the windows and rattles the doors. I will join you in a moment and we will have our coffee and toast, saying little. Later we will walk into town. I need a new brush and a fresh tube of yellow, the color of the moment. I can’t use enough of it. The day is ahead of us, together in our separate and collective pursuits. The small peaceful habits of these summer weekends are full of interest. When this ends, what? I had never considered that when we moved out of the city. I’m reluctant to push the sheets aside; you are downstairs, but your smell is still here.
Come the new year a child will change our world. You ask me some nights if I am ready and I lie. I assume we will make all the same mistakes.
Last summer, when we went to my father’s old house in Virginia, I felt his presence more than in the past. It was neither welcome nor unpleasant, but made me sad that I spent so much of my life before he died cowering from him a few states to the north. If you remember, I passed most of that vacation on the cove painting landscapes, fearful of the house which looks so much like him because he built it. It was only on that last day that I brought the easel inside, painting the stairwell until the light was pulled from the windows. Next year, it will be the three of us there.
On the drive home, we got lost driving through outside of Philadelphia. You told me to keep on and we would find the interstate again. “I think we are going in the right direction,” you said. I trusted you.
I drove the rest of the night, you sleeping beside me, and felt as if I was rushing towards oblivion. Thinking about all our past years and how it is that I found myself in that little car eating up the dark miles, I felt unsettled. Life is both smaller and fuller than it used to feel. Sometimes I want to break out, to flee from the confines of our lives.
When we get the car fixed we can drive up to Eatons Neck to walk along the water or we can drive into Brooklyn to see your sister. How long ago was it we lived there? Did we ever live there? Last time we were there was in February when I came to get you from your sister’s place. You slammed the door and took off. I came after you. I had forgotten how cold the city can get; the concrete holds the freeze above ground. Things have been calmer lately, since the news of what’s to come.
You could write this better, I know, but borrowing your medium makes me feel close to you, closer to understanding you. Maybe someday you will paint for me. In the park last weekend I saw an elderly couple dancing to their radio. They moved perfectly together, slow and sure. A young couple sat at a picnic table; a few joggers passed and an assembly of kids ran around the play structures, parents watching from the shady benches. I was so taken up by looking that I came home with an empty sketchbook.
Michael Howerton is the editor in chief of Granite Media, based in San Francisco. He has taught writing at UC Berkeley, the College of New Jersey and Berkeley City College. His fiction has been published by Salamander Magazine.