Saturday, June 24, 2017

by sandlight

On Wednesday I fell asleep in the truck on the way to Park City.  That's something I never do and yet I let the afternoon sun and the sound of the truck crawling up the canyon lure me into sleep. 

I woke to BC's hand lightly touching my forehead, brushing stray hairs aside. 

He knew I was having a hard day but he didn't know why.  He had shown up at work to drop off something Beach forgot only to find his wife in tears- unwilling and unable to explain.

I haven't slept like that since I was child.  It's the winning end of a losing battle.  A surrender to exhaustion.

When I was a kid, my dad played softball.  Often the games stretched late into the night.  We spent hours out at the playground.  A massive wooden tower with tunnels and slides, giant black tires and a maze of bars & pipes.

The lights of the ball field glowing over the horizon.  Mothers out of sight, out of reach, out of earshot.  It was Lord of the Flies.  But my sister and I were sturdy.  Deceptively capable and incredibly loyal to each other. 

On top of that I was small and fast.  I was as "good" as the boys, often better because I had something to prove and I was willing to risk injury to win whatever the game.

Something unspoken, something late and dark would draw us like ants back to our waiting mothers. Their soft, aging mom-hands smoothing the edges of empty blankets where their children should have been sitting. Their wife eyes to the outfield, the secrets of their hearts hidden behind fixed smiles.  

We would return to the sounds of the dugout, aluminum bats tapping on concrete, the whizzing of balls above our heads, the smell of dust, of leather, of licorice, of popcorn, and of men.

I would lay in the backseat of my father's car as we drove home watching the street lights grow and fade.  I remember believing that if I fell asleep something bad would happen to my parents.  That the shadows crawling up the back of their seats were kept at bay by my open eyes.  It was the first sign of the depth of my anxiety showing through.

But I would sleep.  I would drift off to the engine and the striated streets, bloody knees, bleeding elbows, sand in my hair, dream of soccer and overflowing plastic bowls of sugared cereal.

It is that same anxiety that prevents me from sleeping in the car as an adult: I am the watcher.  The rareness of me drifting off was notable for days. Stranger and more concerning than tears.

The following day and night I couldn't sleep.  I might have touched its rich darkness sometime after 3 am but it was fleeting and shallow.

Last night I drifted off to the sounds of 3 little girls.  Their laughter bubbling up through the floor.  Tiny voices bouncing between whispers and shouts way beyond midnight.

I woke late to the same sounds; girls chattering on the floor beneath me.
I woke to coffee.
I woke to the unknown.

The playground was torn down decades ago.  Adults will never make the mistake of building one like it again.  They replace wood with plastic, remove the sand, pipes, and tires to rubber carpet the earth. 

In one of the concrete tunnels years of sand had gathered.  The entrance was half buried.  The exit obscured by a splintering wooden post.  It was the best hiding spot.  You could lay unseen watching feet go by.  Like counting cards you could figure out where the openings would fall. Count the passing of the most dangerous, judge your opportunities with the slow and weak.

The only thing was you didn't want to get stuck in there.  Stuck in the feeling of safety.  Lured to rest too long making it too hard to rejoin the game.  You could crawl inside seeking a moment of shelter and never make it back out from your hiding place.

Last night I dreamt of the tunnels on the playground.  Of the half moon concrete pipe.  I lay on my belly in the sand watching white sneakers run by.  Then his legs long and lean crossed the light. A 20 year old version of him stooped and peered in.  I jerked awake.

See... what we didn't figure out until years later, long after we were married, we discovered that my ex husband and I played at that same playground together as children.  And although we don't specifically remember each other we know it happened because our fathers were in the same softball league.

In July, my ex is flying our son and his little family back to Utah to take them to Lake Powell for 10 days.  The message I keep getting is he has no intent to let me see them while they are briefly here in SLC because he is paying for their way.

I know if I were to directly ask him for time to see them he would grant it.  I know if I were to offer to pay something for it he would take it and be grateful.

There is something horrible about having to ask permission to see your own child.

It's not something we have ever done to each other before.  But with him living across the country the stakes are higher.  The emotions tighter. 

So I keep telling Conner, it's no big deal.  I'm sure I will get to see you.  I'm glad you get to see your dad.  I'm glad you get to come home.  It's so nice of your dad and his girlfriend to do this for you guys... And all of that is true, except that it's not a big deal, because it is. I really miss him and he really misses his mother. 

I'd be a bad mom if I didn't at least try and ask.  But I sort of feel trapped in that tunnel watching and waiting for my chance to get around someone I'm not sure of. 

Trapped by the shadows crawling across the asphalt and into my parent's car.  Trapped by the weight of all this sand. 

And I know if I don't do anything the mother patiently waiting for her child to return to her will sit alone in the stands late into the night, not sleeping and not dreaming under the glare of the stadium lights. Her love casting itself out in isolation across the empty sand.

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