I want to tell you about my son because he is coming to visit, and I’m picking him up from the airport at 5:36 Saturday morning, because he’s taking the red-eye, because that flight is the cheapest and he doesn’t have a lot of money, because I no longer support him (except I pay his rent and his utilities and his food bills, because he’s 22 and he’s troubled and I worry about him and I love him, if nothing else I love him). I haven’t seen him since May and I’m anxious, because we have quite a history, because he was a difficult child, because I was a flawed mother and he had a flawed father, who is no longer in the equation, at least in physical form, because he was killed in a car accident on a Wednesday evening, 12 years ago on September 10, 2006, because he was driving a small black soft-top convertible on Rt. 35 in Hamlin when Rt. 35 was covered in wet fall leaves, because he loved that car and because he didn’t know that it was best to drive that car in the sun, because in the sun, it’s easier to stop a car with rear-wheel drive than it is in the rain, when the road is wet, when someone is cutting you off. In the sun, you probably won’t hit a guard rail and be thrown over an embankment and land on pavement, like John did, my son’s father, or split your skull open and spill your brain matter, like John did. I know that happened because the death certificate says so and because I saw a picture, because it was in a file on my computer that was not labeled because the lawyer whom we hired to investigate the accident sent it to me unlabeled—for a reason I don’t know. My son was with me when I opened it, the file with the picture. We saw John, half in/half out of the upside-down car, on the cement, his face turned upward toward the sky. We opened that file, my son and I, when my son, the one who is coming to visit this Saturday, the one whom I’m picking up at 5:36 a.m., was 12 years old.
I want to tell you about my son because he’s so beautiful, because when he was a little boy he wanted to grow up to be a polar bear, because he rode a two-wheeler before he turned three, because he wrote, in first grade, that the best part about him was that he was kind, because he has red hair and smooth skin, because he has hazel eyes, like his dad’s, because he is quick and funny and smart, like his dad, because he touches my heart like no one else, not even his dad (who touched me like no one before him). He’s had a hard, hard road because he used to have Tourette’s and stress the off syllaBLES and say words OUT LOUD, because he had this one tic, compelling him to flail his arms wildly, an injured bird desperate for flight, because beside his tenderness lives an explosive rage to match it, because he was inundated with initials like LD and OCD and ODD (look it up!) and loaded down with labels like bi-polar II—he got his childhood wish—and because his father died; and because this terrified him; and because the world could crumble in an instant because his did; and because nothing was safe because it wasn’t—especially because he was too much for me and I, too little for him, because he needed, he needed, but I was sucked dry.
Hanna Barry Black writes both fiction and nonfiction and is currently working on a murder mystery with a social justice bent. She lives in New York and Florida.