I was in his neighborhood and dropped by unannounced. His home was different. The warm minimalism I had gotten used to was absent. This home was a stomach that had been fed royal colored velvets, ornately carved and gilded furniture, flocked wallpaper, crystal, and stained glass. This new environment didn’t change him, though. He was still the man with a fitted button down tucked into jeans atop suede loafers. Designer everything but not a designer name to be seen.
He was living his life and I watched. There was a young girl with him that morning. She was tall, structured, and lean…like straw…and at that age where your body is practically androgynous. Her features were chiseled and her skin smooth. She made her short sleek bob, cut for functionality, seem like the dawn of a new trend. She was the stuff runway models are made of: the opposite of swollen, the opposite of dwarfed.
I didn’t know who this young girl was and I didn’t ask. He never introduced her. They got along like they had shared the same heart for years. I figured it was his daughter or his niece. They looked nothing alike, so maybe niece.
We walked around the house together, the three of us, not really doing much of anything other than touring the place. It seemed to be new for all of us. We came to a bedroom with a bed so large and covered with blankets and comforters that one jump in and you left valleys and basins and lakes of white.
She did what I wanted to do and hid half her height in the softness, laughing and rolling around the way kids do when they’re innocent and the way adults do when they’re intimate. He joined her. The two of them combined were the fountain of youth.
“I’ll let you two be for awhile. It looks like you’re having fun.”
I don’t know why I didn’t join them. They were in my element, but like the brief moment when a devout Christian becomes unsure of God watching the 6 o’clock news until they turn it off, I was unsure if I had a place with them at that point and time and left.
I went into the kitchen to play with the water, turning on the faucet just enough to let one drop at a time fall. Each one landed on the tip of my right index finger. I stood there until it shriveled.
He reappeared alone. I asked him what his plans were for the evening. I wanted to come back and see him.
“Sleeping is good sometimes. I need to sleep. At eight I’m going to call it a night.”
I was known for making him persevere through his usual bedtime hours. I accepted the rejection.
“I need to take her somewhere. I’ll only be a minute. Want to stay here? I’d love for you to be here when I get back. Let’s do something during daylight hours for once.” His blue eyes seemed sincere. They had just saved me from disintegration.
“I’d love to. I’ll be here.”
I watched him leave. The once black Range Rover was now silver and maybe five years older.
I looked out the kitchen sink window and was amazed at how much was going on outside. Youth was everywhere. His front yard was practically a summer camp. I went out to explore and was quickly overwhelmed by the inescapable noise. The laughter encircled me. The yelling unusual. I couldn’t remember how to tell if a child was screaming from joy or discomfort. I remembered the days when I was too young to know how to express what I was feeling. Laughter would turn into tears within seconds or tears into laughter. I was living those moments again.
I found a muddy area where no one was playing. It was protected with thorny brush and had a view of a parking lot. Range Rovers were the car of choice in this neighborhood. A large stone kept me clean and quiet. I sat on its jagged cool surface and found solace in the ocean of black SUVs in front of me.
Not one had a person in it or any activity.
I turned around to see if I was still overcome and a group of teenagers had gathered around me. They were Asian and Mexican and quiet…for awhile.
One of them started to freestyle. He had little to offer — a skeleton of urban life came out of his mouth — but the other kids, one at a time, chimed in and made it more. Within one minute I was in the middle of a beautiful struggle to create something out of nothing. They grew louder and louder and people started to notice and come. I realized that I was the “first” person in this spot, now in the middle of the circle, and not contributing. I couldn’t even dance or hum and I love to do those things. I looked over everyone’s bobbing heads, searching for an out.
He was back! And we made eye contact.
“What are you doing over here? C’mon. Let’s go back inside.”
The short drive had changed him physically. He was now 30 lbs heavier, with a jaw not to be seen, and white washed pale. He looked like a completely different man. I took a moment to acknowledge that I still desired him. He reached out his hand and I took it. We meandered through the colored obstacle course that was the fashion of youth and made it safely back inside to the colored silence that was his massive house minus the girl.