I was standing directly behind Maki and we were midway through the popular song Happy Birthday when his cake-spawned smile was replaced by a self-conscious frown.
He took a slow scan of the beaming well-wishers around the table before raising his arm to his mouth, dropping his head, hunching his shoulders and turning towards the back of the chair for a slow climb towards me and just beyond the man face that everyone else could see was the real me, melting.
He weighs no more than twenty kilograms, tiny Maki, but his impact on my life in all directions is immeasurable.
When I raised him up for the hug and temporary shelter he needed he rose above his physical limits and rewrote my code; uploading those few second inside me, on loop – as he’d done before, as his brothers and Mum continue to do – and I can’t go anywhere inside my mind now without finding him there. Back ten, twenty, thirty years and there’s Maki, an influence on every memory.
I’m drinking a strong Degani’s coffee in Northland and listening to Sarah Smile by Hall & Oates and glazing over, staring out at the other patrons, avoiding the blinking cursor on the empty screen of my bastard laptop as much as I can because Maki’s third birthday was almost three weeks ago now, and I’ve written and deleted two attempts at a dedication post already.
Tania and Lewis have been overseas for two weeks, due back this Saturday, and I can’t wait to see them and – to spin me further into melancholy – Tania turned forty yesterday in an exotic villa in central Italy, on the slopes of the Sabini and Reatini mountains, which must have been just awful…
I wanted to write a dedication for her as well but writing’s been a challenge recently and every sentence has felt a little solemn, a little strained, and I’ve been pushing through because I recognize it for what it is. This has happened to me several times before and generally signals a turning point, a new direction, and the struggle in that – the sweat in every word – comes from what I have to give away.
When I started my life as a stay at home Dad I parked three novels in a drawer and started this blog and I couldn’t have imagined what would come of it but there’s been more of a thrill in rewriting the novels lately and less mojo for the blog and I’ve learnt after twenty-five years of writing, that trying to deny the muse is pointless. So after all this, the blog has to step back, take less of my time, and wait its turn.
I’m sitting in the middle of one long shopping strip and there are people ambling by on either side and a carer is stirring coffee for a woman with a disability directly in front of me and there’s no sense of achievement in any of this. Awards and published short stories and a published book and I have no inner glow of satisfaction. And I run obsessively towards the novels in the drawer knowing that nothing will change if all three are published. I’ve learnt that my compulsion has nothing to do with any of that.
My children are gifts born of the dumb luck that delivered me to Tania and the song I’m listening to is a tribute to one woman named Sarah but its Tania I’m thinking of, of course.
When I first saw Tania I was seventeen and she was smiling and silent and sexy as hell and I was basically confused; spellbound and desperate for her attention without knowing why. I was locked up like that for years before we made it together as a couple and as the courtship unfolded and time went by I assumed the sense of mystery would be the first thing to weaken and disappear. But what these two weeks apart have shown me is that the past twenty years have circled my feelings for Tania and left things just the same. I’m still under her spell and desperate to see her again and if anything’s changed at all it’s that I don’t need to know why anymore.
There’s an old man sitting right next to me reading the same article about terrorism I read this morning and he’s already had two coffees and spent many moments glazed over, contemplating something, and there are so many distractions in life and not much to be certain about. I see my hands over the keyboard and his hands on the newspaper and thirty years of aging exists in a glance.
I’m so grateful – beyond description – to have these years with Tania and our boys. They’ve rewritten my code and altered my memory and spun through my consciousness and made every breath worthwhile. I simply cannot imagine a moment of my life without each of them in it.