I can't listen anymore. I make the music, for Chrissake, but I can't listen. In the mirror every afternoon I check my face, pull my ears. I need my ears. At least one of them.
Through and past the lines of my face I see the kid, a chunky version of me, tired of the dump I told him was his bedroom. Asking if I had chips or anything to eat. I found cheese and crackers and, like a damn fool, left him to it. Went back to the music and kept off the bottle of ripple until my ring finger started shaking.
I frisk my coat for a lighter before I realize I'm out of smokes. Start to the gas station for a pack and then, screw it, take a left to the park. The kid always wanted the park. Soon as the sun was up, we'd pile in the truck and I'd turn the volume down on the radio, not sure he wanted to hear my music. Not sure he wanted music at all.
The park's empty. I focus, trying to hear birdsong, the wind, anything. The monkey bars are even more empty. The kid loved them. I'd watch him in the last year before he stopped coming, flip and twist, move like smoke, easy and free in the sunlight. Watched the baby fat fall away.
He's a gymnast now, she told me. I hope he still moves easy and free. I hope his hands are steady.
I close my eyes and try again for birdsong, then to remember the way the kid sounded when he laughed. If I can remember that, maybe I can keep the music, ears or no ears.
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