Chapter 7 - A Little Dickens

“Mom said I can stay with you this summer, since my report card was so good!” David excitedly exclaimed, laughing during his loud proclamation, as he entered my house. When he was overly happy about something, he’d laugh without control.

“The whole summer?” I yelled to him, slightly offended that she didn’t think to ask me if it was okay, then comforted that she knew I’d say it was okay, anyway.

“Yep, all summer. That’s like…two months!” He said, finally reaching the bedroom I was in. He threw down his book bag and let out a sigh as he launched himself headfirst onto the bed, landing on his stomach.

“That’s great, bud! Man…seriously?” I told him, trying to hide any reservations I’d had; this being sprung on me without warning.

He lied there on the bed, looking over at me with a funny little grin on his face, while I finished up an email.

“Come here.” He demanded.

I complied and walked over to him.

“No, come down here with me and lay with me.” He said.

After walking over and shutting my door, so as not to subject anyone in the house to affection they likely wouldn’t want to see, I joined him there.

Whenever we’d lay down with each other, he’d demand to be the spoon in front, often grabbing my hand and wrapping my arm and leg around him like a human blanket.

This time though, as I fell onto the bed, resting on my back, he let me stay that way and instead climbed up onto me, straddling, and pressing his hands against my chest.

“Two months…” He whispered as he rocked back and forth.

“You little dickens, you…” I admonished him, putting my hands on his hips to discourage any more rocking.

I smiled, excited, at that point, and said, “Yep, two whole months, buddy.”

He then lied himself down on me, head resting on my chest, listening to my heart beat.

It didn’t take long for him to turn this wonderful and new embrace of me into a nap. I gently pushed him off and got up to try and figure out just what the hell I was going to do with him for the entire summer vacation. If I allowed it, it’d mean he’d have to be unsupervised in my home, every day of the week while we were all at work.

I walked into the kitchen to spring the news on an unsuspecting housemate.

“Almost thirteen years old is old enough to stay in a house without supervision, isn’t it?” I asked her; knowing she’d easily figure out just what the question implied.

“Whoa…” she answered. “That’s up to you, of course, but for how long?”

“All summer…” I told her.

“Damn, that woman loves her kids, huh?” she replied, sarcastically.

I got defensive, wanting to protect my boys’ momma, especially since, for whatever reason she was the way she was, I was glad for it; and also for suggesting, though surely unintentional, that allowing him to be with me was somehow an unloving act.

“Well, yes, I mean it’s not something I’d do, if I had a kid, but it’s definitely what David wants so, maybe that’s what she’s considering.” I tried to justify to her as her lips pursed out, giving me the bullshit face.

“That woman is using you.” She flatly said.

It was true, I knew that.

“And I happily am willing to be used.” I replied.

She was thoughtful for a moment before leaving the kitchen, probably knowing I’d just keep justifying it no matter how she felt, saying as she walked away,

“It’s your house...”

I remember thinking to myself, “Damn right it is, and he’s staying…”

I walked back into the bedroom to do some thinking on the matter, while watching David take his nap.

There’s such a peace that I’d always get by watching him sleep. It must be that way for anyone that you deeply care about; knowing their body and mind is recharging, plus they’re with you and safe. The feeling I assume is heightened for those like me, since the moments can be hard to come by and are so fleeting even when you get lucky enough to have them; and also there’s always the “pinch me” factor of noticing…

“There's a boy in my bed!”

Though as much as I loved that, it wasn’t something that was too difficult to part with, honestly. When his needs were pointing away from me, there was barely, if any, hesitation at all. David needed and the need was met, regardless of what that meant for me. This was one of those times.

“Hey, how long have I been asleep?” David awoke and asked, while noticing that there was no light coming through the windows.

“You’ve been out for three days, buddy. I was beginning to worry!” I kidded with him.

“No I haven’t!” He said with a giggle.

“Let’s go out to eat; I’m starving.” I told him, grabbing my keys.

“Awesome, me too!” He exclaimed while stretching his arms, high above his head. He was getting so tall…I noticed.

“Mexican place?” He asked.

“Sure buddy, wherever you want to go, it’s fine with me.” I replied.

It was our favorite restaurant. We always ordered the same thing, never seeming to tire of it; some rolled up chicken thing with a gooey cheese sauce, over greens. Most of the wait staff wouldn’t even come to our table; instead they’d just nod at me, wait to see if I nodded back, and then start on the order.

As we were walking towards the restaurant, David surprised me by saying,

“I think I’m going to try something different tonight.”

“Wow, okay buddy, maybe I will too.” I replied.

As we were given our drinks and complimentary tortillas and salsa, a waitress smiled at us with a “the usual?” look on her face, but I had to shake my head, “no”. Surprised, she came over to take our order.

“I want…” David started to order.

He had come a long way. The first couple years with him, he would normally make me order for him, because he didn’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone. Either that or he’d point to an item on a menu, hoping it’d save him from speaking; his last trick was just saying, “same” after I ordered for myself. It made me smile every time, when he started speaking up for himself – although it was in exact, and opposite, proportion to how it made me frown, when he decided he was too cool to push a shopping cart anymore; which had happened about a week prior to this, and had me pondering things to come and searching for ways to stave off problems that could arise, from it.

I want…” He said to the waitress, drawing out the words, while he made his decision.

Finally, he committed to,

“I want Chicken Quesadillas with Green Chili Sauce on the side, please!”

He finished, amazing me with how effortlessly the words came out and how comfortable he was starting to seem when doing things on his own.

I smiled at the waitress who showed surprise as well, and told her, “The same, please.”

“Ha now you’re copying me!” David exclaimed.

“Yeah, it sounded good, though.” I told him and began the real conversation that I wanted to have over dinner. I had made up my mind, while watching him sleep earlier, that it was time he had his own space. He was growing up and before he started to feel confined and because of it feel more comfortable elsewhere, I had to do something about it.

“David, how would you like it if we made you a little apartment in the basement? That way you can have some privacy and we’ll get you a key made for the back door so you can come and go, as you please?” I asked him, while munching on tortillas.

“What about Thrall and Garrosh?” He asked, regarding the dogs that currently slept down there, at night.

“We’ll get them a doghouse. They can stay outside.” I explained.

I didn’t think he’d be so hesitant; actually I thought he’d jump at the idea, but he still had questions to ask, before agreeing that he was willing to try it.

“But we won’t get to see each other as much.” He told me, visibly upset about that. It was almost as if he thought that I was trying to get rid of him; not realizing, possibly not able to comprehend anyway, that the idea was so that he wouldn’t tire of me and choose not to see me as much.

“No bud, it’s not like that. We’ll still see each other all the time. This will just give you the option of sleeping down there, yet only if you wanted to, and you can still sleep upstairs whenever you want. We will see each other just as much. I’ll even move my computer desk down there if you want.” I explained.

“Well, okay then. I’ll have TWO bedrooms!” He observed.

“One at home number 2. And one with you, at home number 1!” He told me; letting me know how he referred to the two houses he bounced between.

“Yep, but you don’t have to stay down there. It’s just a place to be when I’m at work or when you prefer to be alone.” I told him.

When you start noticing a boy not coming around as much as he used to, it’s painful to suffer it. I hoped this was the right decision, and thought it was a good idea for defending against any soon to appear teen angst ruining us by said teen’s inability to be alone, if and when he needed to be.

We finished our meal, though David commented afterwards in the car,

“I like what we normally order a lot more than what I had tonight.”

I agreed, but didn’t make it known and instead just told him,

“But it’s good to try new things, occasionally.”

He nodded and off we went, driving to a store to buy him some supplies for his new apartment.

Over the next few days, we turned the area in the basement into a great little apartment for him, christening it a week later by having his thirteenth birthday party, down there.

To see him down there with his friends at the party was really special. He would show them all around, pointing out things he didn’t want them to miss, like the window that hung next to his bed and how the doghouse was right there (so he would feel really safe when he slept down there alone – though he didn’t tell them that!) or the cord that he had hanging out of the vent on the ceiling and how if you pulled it, it rang a bell in my bedroom.

“Happy Birthday David!” little Bobby screamed as he walked in through the open back door. He held his gift out in front of him. David accepted it then warmed my heart by putting himself down on his knees to be at eye level with Bobby while giving the little guy a big hug.

“Hi BLues.!” Bobby excitedly said, wildly shaking his little paw to wave at me and causing David to turn around and smile. I gave him a “thumbs up” sign and return-smile, in recognition and approval of his kindness to little Bobby; a boy everyone else thought was annoying and therefore avoided or picked on.

“Come with me Bobby, I want to show you som..” He said to Bobby, grabbing him by his tiny hand; his voice fading as I walked outside to help my housemates with the grilling duties.

“Everyone seems to be having a great time.” One of them said to me.

“Yeah, but it’s bittersweet for me, you know?” I confessed.

All I got for sympathy though was a few small pats on the back and sarcasm.

“Well, when you’re done crying, think you can help with making the food?” she said.

“Ha ha ha…asshole.” I replied, while tying on an apron.

All in all, it was a success. He stayed in his room all day, during the week over that summer vacation, while the rest of us worked and sometimes surprised me with a desire to cook me dinner, after a tough day at work. He was also very responsible with the house key; subjected to surprise visits from me and I was always pleased with the results. Normally he’d either be playing Frisbee with the dogs or on his computer with the door locked.

I remember once being told by him that his mother called and wanted to come see his bedroom and he told her no, he couldn’t allow it because it was my home and nobody was allowed in except for him, when I wasn’t there. I bet she just loved that..

Eventually, he would sleep down there, without needing to snuggle with me first to make him drift off. It was tough but I knew creating the distance was necessary for our survival. I believe now that he sensed my slight sadness with feeling the need to hold onto him looser and looser, the older he became, as he always seemed to try to make sure that I knew that even though he had his own apartment now, and was growing up, he was and always will be, my boy.

Like this time: ***crackle***

The unmistakable static sound from radio silence being broken one night, during a weekend well after my David had turned 13, filled my bedroom.

“You awake, over?” I heard a voice quietly whisper, over the two-way radio that rested on the night stand, next to my bed, as I tried to sleep. It was David.

I picked it up and replied,

“Yep, everything alright down there bud, over?”

“Yes, I’m fine, just having trouble sleeping. Will you read to me, over?”

“Okay, be down in a minute, buddy, out.” I replied.

“Thanks, love you, over and out.” He finished. ***crackle***

He still, sometimes, to this very day, will fit a quick “love you” into the conversation if I’m agreeing to fulfill a request that he thinks I might consider a little trivial.

But there’s nothing trivial when it comes to a loved boy. There’s also nothing too great; even letting go. As difficult as it was and continues to be, he deserves nothing less from me.

Though what a joy it is when the need for independence takes a backward step, reminding you of the past and how much you were once relied on.

As I quietly descended the stairs leading to the basement, I mean his apartment, I heard him rummaging the bookshelf next to his bed and I knew, like so many other nights before, he was reaching for a big one, thinking it would take him a long time to fall asleep; though when I read to him, it never took long, at all; a few pages, at most.

“Aw, you want a widdle storytime before beddie bye?” I kidded with him while snuggling a hug onto him, as he sat on the side of the bed.

“I still like you reading to me when I can’t sleep…” He said, sounding defeated.

“And I still like reading to you, bud. I really do. So what am I reading, tonight?” I asked.

“This one.” He said and handed me the evening’s selection.

We pushed all the covers and pillows up towards the headboard; laid back into the jumbled mess, and got cozy, settling in together for a story; the side of his head resting on my chest; my arm around him; securing him against me; his arm draped over my stomach; his leg resting on top of mine.

Still my boy but evanescent; now briefly pausing the necessary march towards sovereignty, for a bedtime story, to help dim his lights and allow rest, like old times; and always finding the gates to that loving town open, whenever he’d choose to visit me there.

I began reading.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”