He has some gold buttons on his navy sport jacket.
He walks casually on a leaf-strewn suburban white sidewalk
and you follow him, trying to discover what is so calm about him
what makes him so sure of his steps
toward the sudden black tarmac bend of his drive,
the flat cement in spiraled crescent design of the garage floor.
All their garages smell the same—rich mustiness.
All the same things on their built-it-myself shelved walls:
electrical belts (still in their original,
red and white cardboard corsets),
a basketball, a few baby jars full of nails,
a bike chain.
Inside the house, his wife has two kitchens—
one on each floor of the house—for bi-level entertaining.
She has made 48 coconut lemon cookies
which are now in two, square Tupperware boxes
(24 per box), stacked on top of each other
near the blender cozy shaped like a celery stalk.
You understand how lucky you are to be here.
This is not a place for people like you. It’s not just that
you can’t fit yourself under the sheen of precision
that covers everything;
you think you will notice things in this world
that they never can.
And that would frighten them if they ever knew you were here.
So, you’re quiet, you pay attention:
In his study are shelves of first edition books of poetry,
wrapped in plastic. There is a TV, bigger than the one
in the living room. He spends most of his time in this room.
If you were his wife or child and wished to enter,
you would have to knock.
He’s made this clear on several occasions.
The smaller TV is against the living room window, facing
a happy, remotely-new, brown couch. There is a player piano
near the door. At Christmastime, it plays
“O Come All Ye Faithful”
all by itself. On other days, “Mr. Bojangles.”
Their son, the eldest, has a blue room on the second floor.
If you move your hands across it, you will feel it is all
wooden angles and tucked sheets. The drawers are closed.
There is a basketball hoop hanging off the top of the closet door.
Girls are not allowed in here.
The daughter has, yes, a pink room. Hers is of plush and frill
and reflecting surfaces. When you lie down in her bed, you look
up at a white lace canopy. To your left, a matching vanity.
If you are her friend, she’ll let you try on her makeup,
call you “honey.”
Boys are not allowed in here.
But there are pictures of them everywhere.
Just down the hall, a heavy white door. You know even before
you open it that it is a larger, older version of the boy’s room,
but there are two single beds instead of one.
The drawer of the left nighttable holds two potpourri sachets,
a paperback about surviving loss, pain killers.
The drawer of the nighttable on the right holds a pen
and an empty pad of paper.
You have seen enough, you think. As you go,
being sure to close the door behind you, there is a strangeness
in your stomach. Something about how this tidy life could
continue for much longer without exploding. But it will.
This is the part you didn’t expect:
While he continues to write best sellers,
teach college students about the
beauty of the written word, she—a breast removed from cancer—
will bake choco-oatmeal bars and seal them safely
in square, Tupperware boxes.
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Travis May
Photo: YouTube Still