“There is something for me from Pop,” he said. It was a thick envelope and he was excited. He had just given his brother a black eye (it was an accident—the third in less than twenty-four hours) while we were ensnared in DC traffic during what wasn’t, but seemed like, rush hour.
“Please finish unloading the van before you open it,” I said. He did. Then he sat down at the kitchen table to tear open the thick envelope. It was a small leather-bound notepad embossed with the name of Ex’s law firm. There was a letter, too.
He unfolded it and began to read and I watched his face grow longer. He handed it to me and I read it. Ex wrote that someone had sent him the pad as a promotion and he had knew Zeep always liked to have a pad and pen in his pocket so he was sending it to him. He wrote that he missed the boy and was looking forward to seeing him and that it sounded as though he was just going to have to plan a trip out here. Ex suggested that maybe next summer he could get the boy out into the “real world.” (I don’t even want to speculate what that could mean, but it frightens everyone involved.) Ex wrote that he loves the boy.
“I don’t think it’s a bad letter,” I said.
“It isn’t,” he said.
“Then why are you unhappy?”
“It’s nice that he remembers me,” he said. “It’s just that it reminds me that he forgets all the rest of the time.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I hope you know that it isn’t because you aren’t worth remembering—you are—you absolutely are.”
He looked at the floor. He was fighting tears.
“I know,” he finally replied. “I’m going to go clean out the van.”
He stood up and walked out the front door. It occurred to me that he has grown again. His shoulders are broad and he looks more like a man and less like a boy with each passing day.
He came in ten minutes later with an armful of recycling which he deposited in the bin. He pulled the new pad out of his pocket and wrote something on the top page. He tore it off and handed it to me.
It read: I love you.