My little girl is like light through a buttonhole. She is all that I see.
When I wake up, she’s standing there at the foot of the bed. So serious sometimes, her little face framed by long curls, the only ones on her head, like curtains on each side of her face. She’ll be four next month and her features are fine already, sharp and full and sincere all the time, like her mother.
I sit up and set my feet on the floor and she watches as I stretch out my neck. She watches as I stretch out my back and I look about me, around the room, looking for something.
My eyes are red and wet so I rub them with one hand and hold out the other.
She takes it and pulls and I pretend that she’s the reason I can stand.
We go into the kitchen and I pull out her chair and she climbs up and sits patiently, her tiny hands folded in her lap.
I step away and straighten up and hold my arms behind my back.
“What’ll it be, Boss?”
She smiles and the sun shines, bright and clear.
She places her palms flat on the table and clears her throat. “Tomatoes please.”
I bow my head and walk to the fridge and open the door and look inside and there they sit, washed and waiting, where I left them last night, when I couldn’t sleep.
It seems like they’re all she eats these days.
We didn’t think it would be good for her to go to the funeral, she’s so young. Now though, I’m not so sure. It’s as if she still thinks he’s coming home. As if he’s just out for a walk with his mother. I see my daughter sometimes, in her chair at the table and she looks behind her, at the door. Her little neck twists around and she stares, waiting for the stroller to appear and her brother to giggle and her mother to say, “Hey babies, we’re home.”
But the stroller is folded up and Ricky is a bundle of ashes in an urn and they are both in the back of the closet.
So we sit at the table, in the morning, Margaret and I. And when I pop a cherry tomato into my mouth and bite down and the juices burst and coat my tongue like a foul jelly, and I make that face: that face like I’ve heard a crude joke or been kicked in the shin or some awful thing has happened. Then her eyes open wide and her mouth smacks and drops, dripping from the corners as they turn up and she starts to giggle. And I say, “It’s not funny, they’re gross.”
And she says, “Papa, they’re good for you.”
And her giggle turns into a laugh and it comes up from her belly like a hermit from his hide in the dark of the woods.