Light rain pelts the windows, almost silently, with the dream world now hesitating to come forward, pushed back by memory brought to the front by the sound of rain in the darkness. Minutes, moments, clinging like tiny drops of rain on the plastic sheeting we have covered the windows of the old house, a decrepit thing, but a woman lived there with her boyfriend, and her three kids. We played poker there, smoked pot, drank too much, and the house never had a lot of heat, never had air conditioning, but we did put plastic over the windows. This was the place we all went to hang out, to crash when we needed a place to sleep, and as my best friend was the boyfriend of the woman, I was a regular.
A mutual friend was in town, a woman who I had a past with, someone who was speaking to me again, warily, both of us damaged by spending time together, and she was in a state of flux, again, between men, between places to live, between being a teenager and being a little girl, and being a mother.
I remember she sat in a rocking chair, the rain outside light, slow, the rhythm unsteady on the plastic, but audible, and the rocking chair moved ever so slowly.
“I hear you joined the army,” she all but whispered, the child in her arms asleep.
“I hear you’re getting married,” I replied, and it wasn’t true, I hadn’t heard that. I heard she had broken up with her boyfriend.
“No, we’re just hanging around like a couple of dumbasses,” she said, and began to cry, the tears as light as the rain.
I remember her saying that sentence, because it seemed so unlike her to say something like that. It was a bitter statement of discontent, loneliness, and frustration. I had a very rare moment of wisdom, didn’t speak, and instead I handed her a paper towel that was laying on the table nearby.
“Thank you,” she said, for the act of kindness, and the ability to wipe her eyes.
“You know, Mike, one day soon, I mean look at him, he’s nearly five now, he’s going to be too big to rock like this, to hold onto like this, and one day he won’t want me to hold him, and he’ll push away to get down from my lap, and one day it will be the last time we do this together, like this, with him asleep and me holding him, and I don’t want to lose that moment when it happens,” she choked on the words.
The house was quiet, except for the sound of rain, lightly in the background now, and the rocker’s music, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
“You’re going away, no one knows where, even you don’t, and your mama is going to lose track of where you are, and one day my son is going to do something like this, be gone, and I’ll be there wondering when the last time I’ll see him for a year, or longer, or never,” she whispered this fiercely, as if there was a rage inside of her fed by loss she felt coming.
I didn’t speak again, but left her in the moment. That moment, the time in which I could have said something, but didn’t, ended.
Two years later, I came back from the Army, a different person, someone who was not the same. I got a call the day after I returned. The woman had been murdered in a robbery. A daughter almost two, and a son that was nearly seven left behind.