I sit pensively in the boathouse on the lake stretching on my couch. I hear the water. Rustling louder, stronger. Rustling more like an ocean, coming closer at low tide. What could be there? I’ve heard this rushing rustling before but when was it? It had to have been heard before but when?
Dreamer that I am, I imagine someone in a tugboat stirring the water. It’s a small wooden tug with a quiet motor driven by a young fisherman. He’s sandy haired, muscular, singing, but I can’t identify the song.
I know that face—oh how I’ve longed to see it. Pined for it.
I knock on the large glass window next to my sofa. I knock louder and louder with my fist. I open the window, “Stop by,” I yell. “Pull up to my dock and come in my boathouse.”
As he draws closer our eyes meet. His hazel eyes just like mine. We’ve gazed at each other before. I’m sure of it. He waves his cap at me. I remember that gesture. So like him, a friendly, loving sort.
I stand to watch him more closely. He motors slowly to my graying wooden dock. Yes. No question that I knew him. Had been quite fond of him. The where had to be nearby me, but the when escapes me. I must’ve known him well. How else could I recall the details of his warm expression, his cleft chin, his whimsical smile with eyes crinkling, subtle and inviting?
I remember his long stride as I watch him leave his tug and walk with a spring in his step from the end of the dock. He runs up my brick path with that cap waving in his hand. It’s a Mets cap I’ve seen dozens of times before. It has to be that I knew him. Why else would I remember that detail, or the way he ran, like an outfielder, not a fisherman. I’m getting closer to the who and sensing the when. He’d never hook a fish, make it feel pain. Never. Not this lad.
He opens the glass door and steps inside, and I want a hug so badly. He sits at one end of my couch and I at the other so far away.
“It’s so scary, overwhelming becoming a father. So, I dropped by to see you.” He glances into my eyes as his tear. “My baby’s getting older and may even go to preschool. How old should she be when she begins? What school should I send her to? How many hours each day? How many days each week? Should I stay at home while she’s there in case she needs me, and I get a call to come quickly?”
I remember having that last thought. The rushing waves unsettle again as his gentle voice deepens.
“Her first year we frolicked in parks, and she loved a chase. I wrote her songs, and she sang the melodies. She was only one year but she could sing. This high-pitched sound like a small bird, a whippoorwill. I pined for her even when I was with her. I know you, too, are pining. Your eyes seeking mine.”
“Could you, too, have been enchanted by a baby? Years ago? A baby who climbed the same day he walked? He for you. Her for me. The luminous spirit that fills me that you pine for still? To come back again? You, you were my inspiration to father a child, to fill myself with unending glee. You’re the one who said I must have a child in my life. But my baby became a toddler and will soon be two. Do you want your infant back?”
The waves search for timelessness.
Dusk is settling on the lake. I turn a light on. No one is there. The waves settle. Nothing is left but the wondrous sounds of a baby grown into a man.