Window Co. (North Roxboro Road)
When you were boys, I would lie next to you at night until you fell asleep. From the dark of your bedroom, I would stare out the window at the trees under the light of the streetlamps. In my memories, those trees are always tinged with the colors of autumn, but Charlie says that this is probably the product of nostalgia. And he is probably right. Sometimes, I would go up to your bedroom and watch you and your brother playing in the yard. The electric energy in your legs as you ran through the grass, the intensity of your faces when you turned them up towards the sky. You played baseball relentlessly, the way a dog will chase a ball until it is soaked in a lather of sweat – you and your brother were this way, unaware of your own limits, driven solely by the impulse to move, to know the world through your bodies. Was I like this as a boy, I would wonder. I still don’t know.
It wasn’t until one of you smashed that upstairs window with a baseball that I fully understood how completely you would change as you grew older. It was spring and we covered the window with a sheet until I could get the replacement piece from the shop – one day, maybe two. Your mother, had she been there, would have worried you two would wrestle your way right out that window and break your necks, and you did love leaning from it into the open air, stretching out your arms while your brother held your feet, threatening to let go at any second. After we replaced the glass, the view from that window seemed different somehow, and I stopped looking through it so often. At some point, I stopped lying down with you boys at night, and though you were the youngest, you stopped asking me to. Your mother died when you were only two years old, your brother hardly two years older, and now at fifteen and seventeen, it may seem like you’re being left again, somehow. Maybe that is why the anger. Maybe that is why the yelling and the hateful words and now, the empty rooms.
I remember the first time I met Charlie. When he came into the shop looking for work. Rough hands, smooth facial skin with no trace of a five o’clock shadow, small feet in big boots. My age, but unmarried. A solitary man, not a family one. Something about him moved me. The kindness of his eyes, maybe. The strength in his stature. Anyways, I hired him on the spot. It wasn’t until years later that I knew I could love a man and that, in fact, I loved him. It wasn’t until years later that I even knew such a thing was possible. I don’t know why, as I’m trying to tell you all this, that I keep thinking of that window in your bedroom. Charlie always said to people worried about bad luck that a piece of glass is not a mirror, even if it sometimes serves as one. And a son is not the same as his father, though their reflections may be similar, and though they may cast a similar shadow.
If the shop was still open I’d let you and your brother go in there with the baseball bats I saved from those early years and I’d let you smash every piece of glass you could find until all this anger was drained out of you, until you were spent and tired and would let me hold you the way I used to, even for a second. I know you don’t mean the things you said when I told you about Charlie. I know you don’t mean those terrible things.
I’m sitting at the window now and it is autumn and the fluttering of the leaves beneath the light of the streetlamp is almost unbearable. I don’t want to ask anything of you. I wasn’t always the best father. I yelled and sometimes berated. I failed to understand possibly the most important things. But I never asked you to be something that you weren’t. I never asked you to be something you couldn’t be.
I hope you’ll remember that. Mostly, I just hope that you’ll come home.