Valentine's Day Special: For a limited time, receive fifteen percent off a one- or two-year subscription or renewal with the code iheartecotone!

x
Menu

The Vandercook

When Molly and I had been married for thirteen years—splendid Molly, difficult Molly—she took over Conte’s Printing, a New Haven business my grandfather had started in the thirties. My father ran it when I was a child, and I spent much of my time in the shop. A teenage boy, Gilbert, ran errands for my father after school and also kept an eye on me. When I was in college I fooled around on the letterpress printer my grandfather had used, and Gilbert, who still worked there, teased me for caring about something old-fashioned. He was a shy black kid from New Haven’s Hill neighborhood who had grown into a moody guy who worked closely with my father all week and played the saxophone at New Haven clubs on weekends. A few years ago, Dad finally had to retire when he broke his hip carrying a box of newly xeroxed pages to a customer’s car. By then, Gil had been his manager for years.

“We’ll have to sell the store,” I said, when we heard about my father’s accident, and Molly said, “I want it.” We were living in California, where Molly had done well marketing software, but money was becoming less plentiful, and she was angry with her boss. This was shortly before money—and what it may buy, including a sense of adventure and possibility—became less plentiful in other places; the software industry had trouble first. Molly’s instant certainty delighted me. I wanted to save the family business without running it myself, but the thought of her running Conte’s Printing hadn’t occurred to me. I was teaching a history class and assisting a letterpress printer—I’d retained my interest in letterpress without getting good at it—but I could find a teaching job in Connecticut. I missed New Haven and my old widowed dad. Our boys, Julian and Tony, would grow up near their grandfather.

But I was cautious. “Is this because of what happened at work? You’ll forgive him.”

“I won’t forgive him,” Molly said, and I knew that might be true. She and her boss had had a bad fight, and I’d told Molly I thought he was right.

Dad was an ascetic-looking man, small and neat (I’m tall and disheveled) with pale, closely shaved cheeks and dark hair that had grown thin but never gray. People thought he looked like a priest. Starting a joke, he’d lower his voice and touch your arm, like someone delivering bad news. Sometimes he irritated me, but I respected him and was glad he respected my wife, a businesswoman who deserved his admiration. Still, I was surprised when Molly reported after a long phone conversation that Dad was ceding her full control of Conte’s Printing. Despite what Molly had said, I’d imagined all of us conferring. Then I realized that given Molly’s background, any other arrangement would have been insulting.

“And what about Gil?” I said as she turned away.

“The manager? He’ll stay on,” she said. “I can work with anyone.”

Molly was restless—she did not rest. She had messy brown curls I loved touching, muscular arms and legs, and firm convictions. Now and then her hair flopped over her face and she flung it back with a look of surprise, as if this had never happened before. She was blunt, sometimes critical—often outrageous. Once she came to a decision, she was alone with it; even if the decision made everyone unhappy—including her—her determination was unwavering. The two of us mostly shared political beliefs, but it was Molly who went online and made the donation, led me and the kids to the protest march, phoned the senator. Occasionally Molly marched on the wrong side. For a couple of months she had unaccountably believed George Bush about Iraq, and would not hear me. When several events in my life with Molly might have made me take heed, I did not take heed.

A day or two after that long phone call with my father, Molly asked, “Can you work that old printing press?” In the back room, Dad still had the Vandercook that had been the foundation of my grandfather’s business, along with a cabinet of type cases, each full of hundreds of pieces of type in different fonts and sizes, though everything was either photocopied or offset by now.

“I guess so,” I said. The California press where I’d worked printed literary books in small, well-crafted editions. I couldn’t do that, but I could print a little. She wanted the business to offer letterpress printing. I’d have a reason to be in the store, and to work with Gil—who might tease me again, something I’d always enjoyed.

Conte’s Printing had thrived during the forties
, then gotten less trade as demand for sale brochures and wedding invitations disappeared into the suburbs. When photocopying came in, Dad prospered, but then he had trouble competing with chain copy shops, and struggled further when computers made photocopying less necessary. But more recently, savvy Yale professors had used our dusty little establishment for putting together course packets. Conte’s seemed to honor Gutenberg in a way big copy shops didn’t. And then Yale and New Haven decided to change people’s image of my hometown from a scary place where you might not want to send your kid to the coolest little city in the Northeast. Yale bought derelict buildings in the store’s neighborhood and fixed them up. The city chipped in with Dad on a new facade. Upscale businesses wanted good stationery, and people moving into expensive downtown apartments used Conte’s Printing for party invitations. There was even a demand for letterpress.

New Haven had become all but trendy in my years away, and the downtown we arrived in with our children in seemed not glamorous, but less dingy than it used to be. Molly began learning the printing and copying business, and I got a job at a nearby prep school. I set about refurbishing the Vandercook and learning to use it on weekends, and took pleasure in my father’s pleasure, and just in his continuing life and his delight in my boys, who were eight and ten when we arrived. To my surprise, Dad came to the store every day, and sat on a straight chair at one side, greeting old customers.

Gil, who’d been quietly running the store for years, was reserved, but welcomed us. He was in his fifties now, with the world-weary air of an expatriate musician in Paris in the twenties. He had a wife one rarely saw, and one son who had some kind of unspecified problem. Gil’s formality contrasted with Molly’s brashness. She’d thump her hands on the counter for emphasis, and he’d become that much quieter, until he spoke in whispers and communicated with raised eyebrows. He called her Molly Ann, though that’s not her name.

Two years later, I’d completed some modest letterpress jobs when I could find time around my teaching job, and Molly had attracted enough new business that she had to hire several part-time workers. But during the third summer after we moved, I sensed that something was different. It wasn’t that Molly spoke to Gil in an angry or even exasperated tone. But she spoke to him quickly, as if he weren’t present and she were leaving a message. He rarely spoke to me, even though I was in the store more often because I had a tricky letterpress job—tricky for me—with a deadline. A foundation had asked me to print a book of poems written by inner-city children in a program it funded; it would be distributed at a fund-raiser. The poems were short, but the work went slowly. The shop in California where I’d worked was run by a quiet woman who had taught me and kept me steady. There, I wasn’t trying to accomplish something while Molly talked on the phone in the background, my father made familiar jokes, and customers explained complicated needs. The store had two back rooms, one with the Vandercook, one for storage, but the rooms had no doors and opened onto the area behind the counters where the copying machines were: it was really just one big space.

One cool night late in that summer, Molly and I began joking and touching in bed, and ended up making love. Sex and laughter were closely connected for Molly.

I was easing into sleep at last when Molly said, “There are people I could kill if I had to, and people I couldn’t kill, no matter what.”

“Where do I fit?” I said. I was used to being startled by what she said, but she still regularly startled me.

“I think I could kill you,” she said. “I mean if I had to—say, to save the life of one of the children. I could shoot you or stab you.”

“How would killing me save them?” I turned on my side to look at her.

“Oh, I don’t know, Zo—I’m not talking about that.” My name is Lorenzo but she made up this nickname when we first met.

What Molly had said seemed funny, but it wasn’t simply funny. The next morning, working on my big job at the back of the store, I was still thinking about her cool assessment as to whether she could kill me. I knew she wasn’t a murderer and wouldn’t become one: what interested me—and, okay, scared me—was her freedom of thought. I tried to get myself to imagine killing Molly—I chose a gun—but I couldn’t. So I was distracted, and then Doris, the flower lady, arrived. She sold sturdy carnations, a dollar apiece, on the same block as the store. My father and Gil were nice to her. She’d leave her flowers in a bucket of water in our bathroom, then wrap them individually in sheets of spoiled copy paper, so a flower might come in a fragment of someone’s dissertation on the Holy Roman Empire. Now Doris began wrapping flowers in the storage room, talking. I liked her, but soon became impatient. I’d already made mistakes setting one of the poems. Spacing words evenly requires mental arithmetic and I kept losing track.

“You hear there’s gonna be another movie?” Doris called.

The state offered reduced taxes to filmmakers, and the city administration had been courting them with closed streets and considerable freedom. Harrison Ford (or his double) had ridden a motorcycle through the Yale campus not long ago; Robert DeNiro had been spotted emerging from a house in my father’s neighborhood. According to Doris, in a movie that was about to be made, an actor she’d heard of would be shot to death in front of our store. Surely Molly was getting irritated with her chatter. Abruptly, I decided to go home—maybe so that if Molly said something I wouldn’t hear it. Anyway, I was getting nothing done. When I washed my hands and started toward the door, my father called, “Lorenzo?”

“Should I drive you home?” He tired lately. We walked slowly to my car, my father in a gray cotton hat. Driving through the dusty, late-summer streets of New Haven, where brittle leaves bordered with brown were beginning to accumulate near curbs, we were silent.

“You have to understand,” my father said, when we were a few blocks from his house. “Gilbert has problems he may not mention.”

“You mean with his son?” I didn’t know why we were discussing Gil.

“Well, that. His son is doing better.”

I’d never been clear on what was wrong with Gil’s son, maybe a learning disability.

Again my father began, this time as we neared his block. “Of course, Molly is a wonderful girl . . .”

I realized he was telling me something—or, maybe, telling me there was something that wouldn’t be told. I checked my rearview mirror to make the turn. Next to me, my father seemed the size of one of my boys. He didn’t take up the width of his seat, and he slid a little with each turn. He’d always been slight, but I couldn’t get used to the way he’d diminished in old age.

“I don’t know how much you know about Gilbert’s personal life,” he said.

“Very little.”

“He doesn’t say much, even to me,” he said. “But of course I know there’s a secret. Some people—no secrets. Molly. No secrets. Maybe temporary secrets or minor secrets. You and I have always had some secrets, and I don’t just mean you from me, me from you. This is to be expected, between father and son.”

“But Gil?”

“I don’t pretend to understand his life,” my father said.

I couldn’t think of a reason to drive around the block again. We reached his house and I went inside with him and stayed for a little, but he didn’t say anything more.

That evening, Julian, our twelve-year-old, told me he planned to audition to be an extra in the movie that was being made downtown. Day camp was ending and the filmmakers wanted boys his age. “How did you find out about it?” I said. I was cutting up zucchini with my back to him, but I knew how he’d look as he answered, his thin, long upper lip quivering slightly as he tried to keep from smiling, to seem cooler.

“Internet.” He had Molly’s unruly hair, but darker. He hadn’t had his growth spurt. Maybe they’d think he looked too young for the movie. I wasn’t sure about his being in it. Too much standing around, part of an enterprise created by adults for their own benefit.

I turned as Molly came into the room. Tony was behind her—wider than Julian, with a chubby face. She set the table while I began stir-frying our dinner.

“Mom, I want to be in the movie,” Julian said, and Molly said, “Fine!” as I had known she would.

“What movie?” Tony said, and for the rest of the evening it was all we talked about. Molly had become interested. People from the film company had come through that afternoon, talking to the merchants. They wanted to replace the conte’s printing sign on our facade temporarily. The movie would take place in the thirties, and they planned to hang something like the original sign, which they’d seen in photographs. I remembered its sober lettering.

Two nights later, the phone woke us at two in the morning. Someone had smashed the front window of the store and broken in. Molly insisted on going while I stayed home with the boys, calling her often. Nothing seemed to be missing but the intruder had flung anything that was loose onto the floor, dumped out the paper trays of the copying machines, and smashed holes in the walls, maybe with a baseball bat. In the room where I worked, Molly reported, the Vandercook looked fine, but the vandal had scattered my stacks of completed pages, ruining everything I’d done for weeks, and—heartbreakingly—had spilled type from the big old wooden cases, hundreds of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks for each font.

It was unthinkable that at this terrible moment for the business, Molly had more right than I did to be there. Somehow my father and I had made a mistake. By the time I got to the store the next morning, after the boys had gone to day camp, Molly had been interviewed by police and press, neighbors and customers. The store was closed and the broken glass covered with cardboard. Scattered copy paper had been gathered together, but much of it would be of no use to anyone except the flower lady. My father, who’d come by taxi early in the morning, paced and fretted. I worried about a heart attack. Molly, in shorts and a loose white T-shirt she’d pulled on in the night, was sweeping up glass and plaster, and Gil was on his hands and knees in the room where I worked, trying to save the type. The floor there was still covered with trampled pages. I tried to make sense of my predicament. I didn’t know if I could sort out the type, or how much of it had been damaged, but for the time being I put the neat little metal shapes, each with its letter, number, or punctuation mark backward on top, into a carton. We were closed for days, while the insurance company and a contractor did their work.

Checking e-mail in our bedroom a couple of nights later, I heard voices from the next room: Molly and Julian. We already knew he’d been chosen to be in the movie, one of a group of boys playing near our store, but every little while he remembered something more to tell us. It was a relief to have something to talk about besides the break-in. Now Molly came into our bedroom, stepped out of her sandals, and stretched across the bottom of the bed. “They want him to get a haircut,” she said.

“He’ll never do that.”

“He’s doing it. He’ll be playing jacks. Three or four kids play jacks, and they run away at the sound of the gun.” She was lying on her back now, bicycling her bare legs. “I’m so upset.”

Of course she meant the break-in. “Me too.”

“When your father saw it, he cried.” She turned on her side and drew her legs into the fetal position. “I think it was Gil. I think your father thinks it was Gil.”

I stood up so fast—as if I was going to hit her or shake her—that my typing chair tipped over. “Molly, that’s insane! My father doesn’t think that!”

Molly stood up, too, took her hairbrush from the dresser, and began brushing her hair, something she did more often when she was upset.

I righted my chair and sat down, watching her. “You’re not serious.”

“I’m serious.” She laid the brush on the dresser, closed the bedroom door, and began to undress. “I need a shower,” she said.

“But what do you mean?”

She paused. “I don’t know what I mean.” She faced me, in her underwear. “The cops kept asking me about enemies. What’s the motive? Not burglary.”

“Some deluded person, imagining something,” I said.

“No. It looked—how to put this. Intended. Sane.”

I didn’t know how chaos could look sane.

“He’s been angry about something,” she said.

“Gil’s worked in the store all his life,” I said. “He loves my dad.”

“Black men have a lot of anger,” she said. “I don’t blame them for having a lot of anger. Maybe he wanted to buy out your father, but he couldn’t afford to.”

“You think he has a whole new personality, all of a sudden?” I said. “You wouldn’t think this if he weren’t black.”

“Maybe he’s a drug dealer,” she said. She took off her bra.

“That’s really racist,” I said. “And besides—”

“Don’t say that, Zo! You know me better than that.” She bent to take off her panties, and walked naked to the bathroom, carrying a robe. She seemed to be taunting me with her nakedness. When she came out, she said, “Look, he’s secretive. He seems angry. People sometimes just lose it—”

“He’s not secretive,” I said. “He keeps his personal life to himself, but so what?”

“It had to be him or the flower lady,” Molly said. “The part-timers wouldn’t be bothered. And if it was Doris, Gil knew about it.”

“That’s insane,” I said again. I could not prove Gil had been home in bed when the store was vandalized. I thought of him sweeping up type with his long thin musician’s hand the morning of the break-in. He was elegant; he looked dignified even on his hands and knees, in blue jeans that he wouldn’t ordinarily wear to work. He too had been summoned in a hurry. He sat back on his heels and tried to sort the type. Until his recent silence, he’d continued to tease me for my interest in letterpress printing, despite my limited talent. With my clumsiness and occasional frustration, I was likelier than Gil to have scattered that type and spoiled those sheets.

The conversation left me sick with anxiety, unable to sleep, but somehow not surprised. Now that Molly had said it, I realized that I had known she might. Nothing quite like this had happened before, but it reminded me of a few incidents. Years ago, she flew to see her mother after an operation, and made accusations against a woman caring for her. None of the people on the scene—who sounded persuasive to me—agreed with Molly. More recent was the trouble with her boss at the California job. Apparently Molly had tried to place the blame for a mistake of her own on a recently hired young woman.

The filmmakers taught Julian to play jacks. He looked so different with short hair that I found myself speaking more formally to him. Long socks and knee pants were hot and uncomfortable, he informed us. Having the movie to talk about was lucky, because Molly and I could barely speak about the break-in. We reopened more quickly than I’d expected, and I spent a weekend, helped by Julian and Tony, sorting type, examining it, and replacing it in the cases. I taught them how to compare the metal shapes to make sure they were really from the same font. I wasn’t sure Tony would understand what to do, but he caught on more quickly than Julian.

Not all the cases had been yanked out of the frame, and the task wasn’t as hopeless as I’d thought at first. But I had to start over on the printing job for the book of children’s poems, and it was just when preparation for teaching was claiming my attention. Meanwhile, as the filming grew closer, streets were closed and driving downtown became a series of detours. Nobody was allowed to drive to within a block of our store, not that parking would be possible amid the trucks and trailers brought in by the film company. I worried about loss of business but couldn’t fail to enjoy Julian’s excitement, Tony’s vicarious pleasure, and the old-fashioned sign that the filmmakers had hung. Molly didn’t mention her suspicion again.

But I couldn’t catch up on the big printing job. I wasted time with too many breaks, then hurried and made mistakes. I was able to work steadily only if I was rewarded with unmistakable progress. I wanted to finish early—to be done before the filming began—but I couldn’t.

My father stayed away from the store. One afternoon I bought a few bottles of Foxon Park white birch beer, which he’d always liked, and drove to his house. It was cool and dim, with shades drawn. We drank birch beer in his kitchen.

“Dad, Gil didn’t break into the store and damage it, did he?” I said at last.

“Of course not,” said my father.

“Then what?”

“Molly’s a wonderful girl. She makes me laugh. I watch her walk through the place thinking things up.” I knew what he meant, and waited for what he’d say next. For a moment it seemed he’d stop there, but he didn’t. “I think we made a mistake, Lorenzo,” he said.

“You have to tell me what you’re thinking,” I said. “I can’t protect Gil if you don’t tell me.” I thought of something else my father had said when he said that Gil had secrets: that he himself had secrets, and that I did, and Molly didn’t. Molly held the secret of her unpredictable self, but did she have no secrets of the conventional sort? Some of my secrets had to do with Molly. I had not kept secret from her how I felt about the incidents in which I felt she’d been unfair in the past—far from it—but I’d kept secret how I counted and reconsidered them.

“And can you protect him if I do?” my father said, and I’d been so distracted by my own thoughts that it took a moment to remember that him referred to Gil. Dad tipped the bottle of Foxon Park to his lips, not slobbering or dripping—he was still my father—and set it on the floor.

The day before the shooting of the film, I had faculty meetings all day, but Molly and I went to the store after supper, leaving the boys at home, so we could do a little work. She’d been subdued while we ate.

We stayed late. Molly was busy in the front part of the store, working on a big offset job that included diagrams and maps. In a little more than two years she’d gone from being a marketer to being a marketer of printing to being a printer, if not an old-fashioned letterpress printer. Gil had taught her, I suppose. She had a better sense of how to put jobs together than I did. We often called in a graphic designer, but Molly had picked up design principles easily. Now she worked steadily in the other room, and my tension diminished in the pleasure of my own task. If I didn’t hurry, my pages were done without trouble. When I tried to work quickly, I placed letters improperly and they didn’t receive the ink as they should. Now crisp sheets emerged from the Vandercook. “The Man Who Lost His Umbrella,” one of the poems was called, and I said the lines out loud:

A silly man lost his umbrella
And he asked his dog
“Did you see my umbrella?”
And the dog wagged her tail.

I’d been about to set this poem the day before the vandalism. For the first time, I thought I might be able to finish, and even finish on time. When Molly was ready to go, I talked her into staying a little longer. Then we turned off the lights and set the alarm.

No cars were parked on the block, and the surrounding streets were filled with trucks and trailers belonging to the movie company. We’d parked blocks away. We walked along Chapel and crossed the New Haven green, where a few homeless men slept on benches. The three famous churches were massive in the dark; chimes from city hall, beyond the churches at the edge of the green, rang out the quarter hour. Molly was silent; then she said, “I know what happened.”

I didn’t have to ask what she meant. “How do you know?”

“He told me.”

“Gil?”

“He told me this afternoon.”

“What did he tell you? He didn’t do it!”

“No, you’re right. He didn’t personally do it.” We crossed Elm Street and walked next to the library. Our car was halfway down the block.

Molly paused and then spoke in an expressionless voice. “Gilbert is gay. Or bisexual. His wife doesn’t know, but for ten years he’s been in a relationship with a man. He broke it off last month, and the vandalism was the man’s revenge.”

I could imagine that Gil might be gay, but I couldn’t imagine him talking about it. “Gil said ‘I’m gay’?” I said.

“You think I’d make something like this up?” Molly said.

“No, no—I can’t imagine him saying the words.” It seemed darker than other nights, even in well-lit downtown New Haven.

She was silent again, and this time sounded resentful when she spoke. “He said, ‘I’ve been in a liaison with a gentleman you do not know.’ ”

That I could imagine. “But he’s only supposing that the man did it? He doesn’t know?”

“He wouldn’t say—and he wouldn’t tell me anything about the guy, so there’s nothing to say to the cops.”

“So it’s over,” I said, as we reached our car—it was Molly’s car. She hated being a passenger.

“No,” said Molly. “No. I think I have to let him go.”

“No, that’s absurd,” I said. It was so clear to me that it made no sense that for a moment I expected Molly would agree. I’d stopped outside the car, but she unlocked it and slid into the driver’s seat, so I walked around to the passenger’s side. She pulled out of the parking space.

“In a way it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It wasn’t exactly his fault. But I can’t afford someone whose personal life would lead to something like this.”

“You can’t think this,” I said. “It’s impossible for you to think this.”

She didn’t answer, then after a silence said, “I hope the kids aren’t still up. Julian has to be alert tomorrow.”

“And you don’t know for sure that it’s true. Have you any idea what this would do to him? To his family? He’s fifty-six years old.”

“Let’s talk about something else,” she said. Then she said, “I’m not putting this business at risk, Zo. I’m just not.”

We had to close the next day, when the scene near the store would be shot: nobody would be allowed on our block for hours. But since we were still behind in filling orders, Molly had decided that she and Gil and I, if we arrived early enough, could spend the day locked inside, catching up. Maybe we could even watch some of the moviemaking, and glimpse Julian playing jacks and running away. He was up early; before I was out of the shower, Molly had left to drive him downtown, calling to me that she’d see me at the store. I’d been awake much of the night. In the dark, I had finally said, “You may not do this,” and from her pillow, sounding wide-awake, she’d said, “You may not tell me what I may not do.” I asked myself what I’d do if Molly fired Gil, and I didn’t know the answer. I needed to become someone I was not, someone who’d know what to say. It was too late.

Tony was supposed to spend the day with a friend, but he woke up insisting that he wanted to see Julian in the film. Then my father called. He asked me to take him to the store, even though it was closed—it would be the first time since the break-in—and when his voice became sharp, I agreed to take him, too. By the time we’d all parked downtown, several blocks from the store, it was late morning.

Summer was ending, but the day was hot and the blocks seemed long. My father and Tony walked slowly, my father steady and silent, the gray cotton hat pulled low on his forehead, the brim tilted forward. Before we reached the store’s block, I saw that a crowd had gathered behind a barrier at the corner, with an off-duty police officer.

Equipment filled the block, and there were more workers in ordinary clothes than actors with fedoras or boys in short pants, but we spotted Julian in his unfamiliar getup at the other end of the street. The filmmakers had brought in fake lampposts and antique cars. In the street before us, emphatic people conferred, argued, filmed, filmed again. The star and his pursuer ran, and the star fell forward, then got up and discussed something, then fell again—no gunshot noise—and this time he landed on his side, his hat next to him. An actress in a hat and high heels ran diagonally across the street toward him. Extras, including Julian, assembled, acted, retreated. Then they all did it at once: the leading man dashed in our direction, followed by the gunman, then he fell as Julian and the two other boys scurried; Julian sprinted across the street at an angle, just as the woman rushed past him, falling to her knees at the dead man’s side, her bare arms flung above her head.

“It’s her own fault,” Tony said with some impatience, and I recalled overhearing Julian tell him the plot of the film: the star played a murderer, and his girlfriend had turned him in, even though she loved him.

I tried to convince myself that I could finish the letterpress job quickly. I tried to believe that Gil and Molly were working quietly together behind the store’s glittering windows. Then my father said, “We should have sold the business.”

At last I persuaded the police officer that my father was in danger of dehydration. Heads down, glared at by moviemakers who had stopped shooting but were still conferring, we made our way to Conte’s Printing. The door was locked and I used my key, pushing Tony and my father ahead of me into the air-conditioning. Gil crossed the floor toward us, silent. He put the palm of his hand on the back of my father’s head and pressed Dad’s face into his own white shirt, like a parent protecting a child from seeing something terrible.

Of course, what had happened—what Molly had said—was not visible, yet the colors of objects seemed harsher, their edges sharp. Molly’s back, in glaring blue-and-white stripes, was toward us.

“Mom?” Tony stepped forward. “Mom?”

Molly turned, looking at Tony, not me, and I understood that it was because she didn’t want to find out—yet—how much she had lost. I couldn’t look at her frightened face. I wanted love to be simple. I wanted to tell her how nimbly our son with his new haircut had darted across the street, how scared he seemed, how hard it was not to run toward him, stretching my arms out wide.

 

Photo: Sax