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At the very least he listens. He is always listening to me. Whether attentively or disinterested is hard to tell, but listening nonetheless.
Sometimes he laughs, but who is to say what that is to be attributed to? Probably not anything I’m saying, but maybe an expression I make or a tone I use. I may go red in the face in anger. I’m sure that can seem amusing to an innocent boy. His laughter is rare, though, and my temper is not, discounting even that theory.
It’s hard to believe he’ll be turning four soon. Coming up in a while here he will be saying real stuff to me, probably.
I don’t think I’m ready to be the listener again. All Ariza ever did at four was talk, but she said real stuff, you know? She’d say all these different things, and I was never ready to hear any of them. Little kids understand more than we expect them to. I don’t like that.
Plus, I’m a downright awful dad, and I’ve always heard a big part of being a parent is listening. Ask anyone. That’s alright, though. Ariza forgives me. She has to. I’m her dad. I’m an awful dad, but I’m a dad. That should count for something; the gift of life and all that. Seth will forgive me when he gets to be Ariza’s age too. I’m certain of it.
God, how old is she now? I’ll have to call Keely and find out. No matter what Mara thinks, I reserve the right to keep in touch with them. I love Ariza, and I love Keely too. What a beautiful person old Kee can be, especially when she laughs. Nobody has quite the laugh she has. I used to think Mara’s came close, but Mara is too serious. Seth is too. He’s too serious like his mother. Ariza was never like that. Then again, Ariza has never been around Mara.
Now that I think about it even when Kee was around Mara she acted strangely. In no way did she lose her sense of humor, but something about her seemed different. There was a certain hint of something I’ve never recognized in anyone else’s voice before lacing her words.
Yeah, I think if Ariza ever became as serious as Mara or Seth, I wouldn’t know what to do. You’re probably wondering if I even love my wife Mara. You and I both, buddy. Don’t start judging me now, though. If you only knew the half of it you wouldn’t be so quick to judge. No, never mind that. If you only knew even one third of it, you would at least show some compassion about the situation.
That’s not what I’m here to tell you, however. I need to lay some stuff on the table because I actually have some confessions to make.
Let me just start by saying my boy Seth is a beacon of light. I can tell, already. Ariza represents laughter in the darkness, but Seth doesn’t even need any laughter. He just lights up a room with his stupid little face. He just tumbles around and everybody smiles.
That’s good. That’s really good. I hate how serious he is, but he can afford to be that. Mara can’t. Who has Mara ever made smile except for me? She can’t even make Seth smile, and she’s his mother. What a worthless woman. She’s absolutely nothing like Keely.
Don’t get me wrong. Before she became pregnant she loved me. Maybe she still loves me. I guess I don’t care. I’m not sure if I ever loved her. I must have told her I did. I don’t remember ever thinking I did.
Why did I marry her? Good question. There’s an answer to that, I’m sure. I’m just not as interested in learning it as I am about other things. Among the things infinitely more interesting than that woman are, fortunately for you, the stories I need to share with you.
I began with my boy Seth being a source of light and Ariza being a source of laughter. This is because these things never seem to stray from my mind. They are certainties, whereas everything else seems to come and go. Some days Mara is normal and others she becomes an unrecognizable witch of a woman.
Before I explain more I need to call Kee. I need to figure out how old Ariza is. I really can’t remember. That’s another one of those not so certain things: my memory.
Let me just remember that number.
I’m dialing it right now. I really am. I actually remembered it.
“Hello?” Strange – a man’s voice answered. Why would there be a man in Keely’s house? She hasn’t moved on has she? Maybe after all these years… No, it’s impossible. Don’t allow me to get started on wondering about that.
“Is Keely there?” Of course Keely was there. Where else would she be? She hasn’t left that house once since she met me. I made certain she would never need to. I love her that much.
That creep responded with a lie, “You got the wrong number,” and then I was left with the dial tone. Why would he hang up before hearing my response? Sure, it would have been something along the lines of, “Are you sure,” and as a liar he would surely have said, “Yes.” However, there is such a thing as phone etiquette and being polite.
Then again, maybe I did get the wrong number. I doubt it, but I may have. I am at least always fair. Do you see now how uncertain everything is? Should I look her up? I really ought to know how old my own daughter is.
Another time, I guess. I’ve gone this long. I always get to wondering how I can go so long without doing certain things that I should. Calling Kee is always one of them.
Anyway, when I was waiting for Kee to answer I heard my little Seth in the other room. I better go check on the boy. “Seth, my boy, where are you, son?”
I pulled the already ajar door wide open to find my Seth on his head like some kind of toddler acrobat or something. This is the type of thing Ariza may have done at his age except she would have been smiling and laughing slyly, probably saying, “Look at me, daddy, aren’t you proud?” Always, love. I revel in your achievements as if they are my own.
Seth, on the other hand, looks frightened and maybe even angry. The kind of angry on his face is almost accusatory, and that’s strange on a boy his age. I can hardly bear to look at him. “Stop it, boy. You’re going red.”
He fell forward and let his body make hard impact with the carpet. “Up, boy, it’s filthy down there.” He sat crisscross, arm over arm. That’s fine by me.
Wait. Did he start humming? I know this song. I know it. I love it. What is this? All of a sudden I’m excited. I should pick him up and dance. What a delightful, sweet boy. He needs to know I love him. He needs this memory of me. We can make one happy memory before bed time.
He needs to know I love his mom, even if I don’t. They have to believe I do. I love them, right? Kee… That angel, I swear I’ll curse her. They need to know I loved them. They need to.
What is he humming? I love it so much. “Seth, you’re one talented son of a gun you know that?”
Wait. “Stop, Seth! Stop,” I know now. It’s Peggy Lee’s He’s a Tramp. Curse Disney. Of all the songs for this boy to pick up, he picked up this one. When was he watching Lady and the Tramp anyway?
“Mara,” I say this again, watching Seth who is still humming, but looking at me, confused, “Get in here, Mara. What have you done?”
Can she not hear me?
Then, Seth cries, “Mama!” She comes running.
“What on earth have you done?” By now I’m crying. Just seeing that blonde hair and her small, serious face I could strangle her. She has such tiny features. Although, she has rather large, round eyes that are actually a becoming shade of light brown. I think it’s a different color. Was it maple?
Hazel. The color is hazel. She has such big hazel eyes and such small lashes that she cakes in mascara. I hate that. It just looks bad and draws attention to what’s missing. Those eyes, though I could get lost in. I want to focus on them, but they make me miss Kee’s bright green, happy eyes that always had laughter spilling from the ducts. Everything about Mara makes me wish for Kee.
She is staring me down with her hands on her bony hips. It’s unbearable. I can’t take it. This is where Seth gets it. Seth gets everything from this woman. I didn’t even name my son. If it were up to me it would have been a much stronger name. I think I may have named him Covus, after my grandfather.
“Stop staring at me, woman. What do you want from me? Why did you let my son watch that movie? You promised.”
She opened her wide eyes, wide, if that makes sense. They were huge. She had two flashlight beams beaming out her eyes, I think. I really think that. She was staring into my soul. “Did you mean that?” What?
“Did I mean what? Did you mean it? You promised, not me. What’s going on? I never knew you were stupid too, Mara, woman.”
Is she walking towards me? I will slap her. Forgive me later. I will do it. She knows what I’m like. This isn’t my fault.
“Woman?” she yells. She takes out the daggers all over again, staring at me, merciless. “Is that what I am? Am I Woman? Seth is your son and I’m a woman. He isn’t our son. I’m not your wife. Is that what you mean, Man?”
To be perfectly honest Seth is my son and Mara is a woman and I do mean that. Obviously she is my wife and Seth is her son too, but yeah, I mean we have never been a family. She knows this. Don’t let her kid you. I am Man, man. Who cares? She let my son watch the movie I told her to just keep him away from.
“Keely was —”
“Keely was a wonderful woman, Amos. Isn’t it such a shame she’s dead?”