. – . – .
“I’m here for Angel.”
I admit that, at that time, I spoke more from a place of duty than of love.
“Is it that time already?”
She tried to look fresh, as if not having been wrestled to submission. She took a long sip of morning coffee. She held the mug to her face, letting the steam coat her skin, as if getting a spa treatment at my expense. She rocked back and forth on the front porch of her new home, at my expense.
“Time is money,” I reminded her. “The car is running.”
“You don’t need to remind me, and I can smell.”
She rocked, deliberate and slow, the toes of one bare foot pressing against porch railing, then releasing, then pressing again, then releasing. She played with the ends of her hair, playing me, I’m sure.
I had no clock to watch, so I stood, hands in pockets, and waited. I looked at her bare foot flexing, her robe, her hands, her twisting fingers, her twisted hair.
Finally, after an excessive amount of awkward silence between us, I opened my mouth to speak. She beat me to it.
She pointed in the general direction of the front door, as if I needed to be told, ordered like a child.
I found Angel by the fireplace
Warm arms bound
Smelling of stale food
Maybe baby carrots
Small dirty bundle
Tightly packed for travel
. . .
I examined the wound. There was no change. It was not worse, but it had not healed. When I was done, Angel once again returned to a slumped heap, like a stuffed sack pulling its own drawstring tight.
I asked the question I had always wanted to ask, but out of politeness, resisted. “Want to tell me what happened?”
There were fifteen minutes and seven seconds of silence. I know because I watched the clock.
“I fell,” Angel said.
I waited for more. None came, so I assumed it was my turn again.
“We all fall,” I said.
Angel looked up at me, eye-to-eye, for the second time since sharing of custody. The first time is another story.
“Are you saying that you are like me?” Angel scratched with tipped wing, as if digging for fleas, like a dog yawns when not knowing what else to do.
“No,” I corrected. “I am saying that we are like each other.”
I looked up at the big clock on the wall and waited. That was when I decided to concentrate on Angel instead of the clock. I still listened to the passing seconds, but I lost count of the minutes. It felt liberating.
I knelt near Angel. I reached out and felt burlap or something similar.
“Are the chains too tight?”
It is important to understand that at this point I was genuinely concerned. I was not just looking to fill silence with conversation. I want to be a caring guardian. That is a goal of mine. I am not a bad person, but I want to be less of one. You must know that about me.
“They are chains,” Angel said.
I heard the ticking of the clock, but I dared not look up.
“I am here for you.”
I would tell you who said that, but I’m not sure. I think maybe we both did. If I didn’t say it, I thought it.
Or wanted to.
Or wish I had.
I comforted as best I could.
I thought about raw touch, and tough decisions, and the cost of both. I thought of what else I could find in the basement of this rented space, like more lost things, or maybe bolt cutters.
I am here for Angel. At least I am trying to make this work.
– . – . –