My son is almost six. All day in Kindergarten he learns to count to 100, to spell “spider,” to name his bones. Tibia is his favorite — the short i crackles between his teeth. After dinner, we go to the playground. At the apex of the slide, he tells me about his new girlfriend and why he loves her: because she has a loose tooth, because she is beautiful. Because she remembers to cover her mouth when she sneezes. Because she has good manners, and good manners are important. His lips are red with popsicle. Disappearing down the slide.
Every day: giving him away, emptying my hands of his book bag, his lunch box, his small sticky grip. Every day: kissing him goodbye, grazing the soft prickle of his head with my mouth, a moving target I can never catch. Every morning scrapes away another layer of the red muscle pulsing away behind my ribs like ice from the windshield. The yawning mouth of a yellow bus swallows him up.
At night he lies beneath the covers, cuddles an old pillowcase, a small tiger. We put up the invisible imaginary shield to keep out bad dreams, bad feelings, bad people, anyone or thing who tries to hurt us. We put one up over his bed, over his room, over our house. He asks for one over the Earth. That’s a big shield. His eyelids are falling down, soft lashes lacing together. He moves into landscapes I cannot see. Bring him back, I say to the night. The planet keeps turning, moving him further and further away.