A friend once endowed me with his earthly possessions. I meant to keep them for him, but after a few years I realized he had a place to live again, and didn't seem to want any of it any more. It wasn't completely up to me, I was still with my ex and the only thing he was sentimental about was stuff he'd made himself. Now, my ex, he's been dead for 8 years and I still have way more of the stuff he'd made himself than I can count. When I moved back in, after his death, I threw a lot away, not a lot, just some of the bigger, less successful paintings. They took up way too much space. A whole room. I rescued the ones I liked; had to drag some back from the street when Jesse came back from school and started carving out his apartment from the body of the loft. But it was all his father had, you know. For the kids. Kid. I should have had more of them so I'd never have to stop using the plural.
It's mostly paintings, he made thousands of them. And pottery. Not much of it is useful exactly. The ceramics--he was learning the form while teaching it to seniors or was it kids? At a summer camp when he was young. There are some esthetically pleasant pieces. I don't know what my son will want with any of it, but that's not up to me. I suspect he may throw it all away when I leave town. That would be sad, and not because I have any real attachment to the works. Sad because it's what his dad would have hated most, and he still loves his dad. And I never hated the man enough to hate what he made. Or lie that it wasn't any good.
I'm up late tonight, or rather woke up really early-- midnight. I have no sleep schedule lately. I'm lucky I'm working from home. I'm here trying not to have a long, heartfelt conversation with my son because I think it would probably come out badly. What's the right way to tell your only remaining child that you will die if anything happens to him? I want to say that I want him to feel fulfilled in life, to pursue things he cares about; but it's all just a way of saying I'm terrified of losing him. I want his life to seduce him into staying alive so I can stay alive. Isn't that what it means, to be happy? Content? I prefer fulfilled. It sounds more valuable, and rare, and rewarding. I want him to be glad he's alive. Because that means he won't take stupid risks, or be depressed, or sit on his ass doing nothing. But you can't tell people this kind of thing.
So I try to shut up and be positive. He's too old to have his mom even hinting around at how to live his life. He's too much like me to listen, anyway.
I ran into that friend, many years later, out in the East Village. He recognized me, but I didn't recognize him at first. It was the Jamaican accent when he called my name that made me see his face as him and not some random Village guy. He'd aged so heavily since the day he left his boxes at the loft. He was wearing layers of lighter clothes to keep warm, none of them particularly clean. His hair was shot with gray and straggly. The edges of his eyes had started to yellow. When he talked I could see how long his teeth had grown and I fretted for him, but it wasn't really my place to ask. He told me he'd gotten a subsidized apartment, "just saving it for my daughter Aiana. That's all I care about. That she has a good place to live when she comes back." I hugged him then for the last time. I never saw him again.
Now here I am, saving it for my son.