Tyler sees me and sign salutes with his new words. He smiles wildly and his miniature stubby legs take a step toward me, pause, turn and run away with a pitter of giggles. Mike greets me as I step into the pile of shoes in the entryway. We shake hands and I slip off my sandals. Tyler is putting his shoes on. My entrance triggers a response in him to leave. We have been going to coffee for all of his life. He has grown accustomed to me, like Pavlov's dogs to their bell.
"Runrunrun?", He inquires.
I shake my head. His eyebrows cross and he meanders over to the window and presses his nose and tiny hands to the glass. It is raining and the wet leaves form a matte Kaleidoscope carpet in the narrows of the gangway.
"Rain.", He says as the word becomes a circle of mist around his nose.
I know about rain. He knows too that we aren't going anywhere today. He knows that a heavy blanket has fallen over me. He stands on his tip-toes and hands me a ball. His brother is in the bouncy chair and Mike shouts from the bedroom that he has to get some things together. I palm the ball in front of Tyler and dunk on the miniature hoop exclaiming a triumphant grunt. He laughs and Danny whimpers from his chair.
I lay down on the carpeted floor near Danny and watch him kick his legs while the rest of his breast fed baby fat jiggles. He looks like the Michelin man, like rubber bands are around his arms and legs, forming little rings. He is a shy baby and wails when I look at him.
"Tyler, go get the paper off the table for me. Over there." I point. I am amazed that he is able to listen and fetch now. It seems such a short time since he began to crawl.
He grins the evil grin, and runs away cackling. He wants to watch TV and is pushing the buttons. The TV is unplugged.
"Zooboo?", He asks. I shake my head.
"Melmo?", I shake my head again.
"Zezame Steet?", I shake my head again and laugh.
I know he wants to watch TV. This little boy will never know life without TV. He will grow up in a technological society. He will venture to places I never even dream about. I envy him, I love him. I want his interactions with me to be simple. I want too much. Instead of wanting, I close my eyes and pretend to sleep, snoring loudly. Little uns love this game.I hear Mike enter the room. Tyler "shooshes" him and tells him I'm sweeping.
"Wake him up." Mike implores.
I feel the tiny hands push into my chest. I open my eyes and let out a huge "ROAR!". Tyler stumbles back, startled and smiles cautiously. He laughs and falls into me. I hug him and stand up. My friend is worn out and tired. We are very different but our friendship lives in Literature and baseball.
"Tyler stinks, yo." I tell him.
"Tyler, go get a diaper. P-U". Tyler runs to his room.
"How's it going bro'?", I ask. Knowing that he is worn out from a life of responsibility like an ever rolling ball. I am just burned from the abuse. Neither envies the other.
"Good, this guy is sick" (picking up Danny from his chair).
"Hey, I brought Tyler this," I pull out a large nut and bolt combo 'cuz the kid likes to unscrew things. "Is it all right if I give it to him?".
Mike knows too and he laughs. He tells me A-ok and asks if I want some coffee. I tell him that it is on the table and we sit down in the tiny nook.
Our conversation is easy as always, Tyler runs and Danny bounces while we try to fit words between their noise. It is the first day of fall and it felt like the cold arrived over night. We are both distraught, we know that the words aren't flowing. Mike is from way Northern Minnesota and I am from the West Side of Chicago. Mike is worried about my drinking, about my slump in words. I shake his hand again and look to leave. I slip my leather and rubber sandals on and get ready to leave. Tyler comes to me and points to a stripe on my rugby.
"Stripe.", he says.
I click my heels together and the stripe falls to the ground.