We have supper in a cafe. We sit at a low counter on short rectangle stools by a wall of windows. Outside, the sun slants into the street where people greet other people and cars and bicycles pause for red lights. She points at all the porcelain potted plants and finds silky flowers on a prickly succulent. She asks about tomorrow and we talk about today, while we pick at a peanut butter cookie and drink from a jar of yogurt/berry smoothie before the arrival of our salad and macaroni, for which she isn't hungry.
After supper, we stomp down cement stairs to the belly of our little city. We jump on cigarette butted sidewalks, wait beside crosswalks and look up at living ceilings of leaves. She wears a sun hat over her silky straw-colored curls and holds a wilted dandelion. Her cheeks and fingernails are filthy. She wants to run without her hand in mine as fast as she can and so I jog along beside her, reminding her to look up for strangers and reminding myself not to worry so much about the time and what other people think. She's only two. She will be three years old in three months, but for now, she is still only two and I am still only thirty-four and yes it is bedtime, but it is also springtime.
At home, standing beside her bathtub, she sobs. She doesn't want bubbles. She is so sleepy. It's been a long day. With my foot, I splash the soapy foam away. She climbs in and sits. She wants to play. I want the dirt to wash away and to get her soft body into pajamas, and into bed and then deep deep deep into sleep. She doesn't like warm bathwater on her face or near her eyes, but if she could bathe in a swimming pool or lake, she would jump right in, welcoming the water to wet her all over. Aren't children so interesting?
We read books. Then in the dark, i tell her stories and sing about sunshine. Tonight, it is only me and her. Tonight, Daddy is teaching. And no longer do we have a sleepy doggie sighing in the corner, nor feel her heat on our blanket feet. Every couple of days she asks me where she is and i say simply that she is away. Sometimes, i say that she's gone and that she's can't live here anymore because she wasn't safe, but then i worry that whenever she isn't safe, she'll wonder if we're going to send her away too. But what is better? To tell her that the dog died because she wasn't gentle? I'm not going to discuss the death penalty with her now, nor much at all of the whole truth. Therefore, i keep it short and vague. She's away, i say, away.
Once she is sleeping, i wash the dishes, then i crawl into bed. i leave the window open and listen to the wind of the highway. What if i never feel again like an I (a capital letter I, a proper noun, tall and slender, self-important). Tonight, i feel small but full. i think that means i must be small (though my feet are long and crooked, my hands are big and boney and i am as tall as i am tall.) Perhaps i am small because i feel small and i feel small because i am quite small (in the world that is). That's fine with me now, i think. Yes, i want to be seen, but no longer do i feel the need to be queen.