“Goodnight. I love you.”
His son yawned across the pillow and the yawn traveled across empty space to infect him with the desire to share in its indulgence. August stifled the yawn, and the boy remembered something.
“Can we leave the radio on? While I’m asleep?”
“What if it helps me sleep?”
“You’ll have to learn to sleep without it.”
He began to leave, and the boy’s sense of crisis grew. August felt it, as it drew him back in the door and the debate.
“But it does help me sleep!” The boy lied. It did not really help him sleep, but it was an integral part of the dark, after all.
“Why don’t you tell my why you really want it on, and we’ll see.” The boy visibly retreated into stillness like a rabbit weighing its options. He reached into the future of his father to touch it, and see if it was trustworthy. He felt its feelings, and its reactions, the weight of its anger and the colors of its chuckling. It held soundly.
“The noise keeps the monsters away. Don’t tell mom.” The last phrase came out like a shield covering a retreat.
“I thought you said six-year-olds don’t believe in monsters.”
“Maybe I do,” but it was more in a questioning tone, to see if it was still acceptable to believe in monsters and Neverlands and wings if you knew how to use them. The thing hung in between them above the carpet, until August declined to indulge his matter-of-factness, so the radio came on, softly.
He felt the carpet again in the hall, and he saw the skyline of his wife’s curvature under the sheet against the glow of the clock. She breathed quietly, without the promise of conversation. He watched the dots on the ceiling and thought about all his words during the day. Every word he had spoken came back to him, maybe not with clarity, but in emotion just the same. Not every feeling passed his test. Something uncivil in him lifted its head and smelled the air in a short hungry sniff.
He looked over at the radio, and it sat, silently giving testimony to the time.