I'm sitting in the driveway, phone clutched in hand when the car pulls up. The two boys hop out of the old, white Suburban, ambling wordlessly toward the front door. They don't see me in the truck; their thoughts are a million miles away.
"Hey," I call out, rolling the window down and staring at the two strangers; two tall, handsome boys that were once crawling and crying and cuddling up to me yammering for books and cookies and hugs. They turn, faces blank, and stop to stare at me.
I wonder who they see when they look at me. Do they see the mother that loves them, that aches for the days when we sat huddled under covers pretending to be camping, makeshift s'mores still gooey in our hands? Do they see the woman that rocked them every day after school just so they could have some quiet time after a long day learning the business of being a kid in a classroom bustling with activity? Or the mom that got up at 5:00 every morning when she was divorced, working full-time, and going to school, just so she had time to make them a hot breakfast before rushing off to class? Most days, I think they see the mom that screamed "SHUT UP!" on that miserable day outside the McDonald's when I just couldn't face another demand from anyone on the planet, not even my own kids. Or the woman that, upon watching her pre-adolescent son, bitter at the world and angry beyond reason, rioting in his room, lost her temper and joined him, throwing his stuff in a show of equal childishness, until he stopped, mouth open wide, eyes haunted. Or perhaps the mom that, when they were so unimaginably small, depending on me for everything, tore them away from their father for reasons I will never be able to tell them, reasons I just can't bear them knowing?
Now it is me that watches them with eyes, haunted.
"Hey," I repeat, "You took a long time to get home tonight. I need to run to the store, but I'll be right back ... is everything okay?"
Uno, my oldest, my twin soul, who has shoved himself so far behind walls that he makes the defenses I created while growing up look like the house made of straw, glares at me, jaw set tight.
"Yeah. Fine. I just want to go in, shower, and go to bed. That. Is. All. I. Want." He turns, and is gone.
My youngest, Dos, the peace maker, smiles at me. "I just have to pee, mom. We're fine!" He too, turns, sprinting into the house.
Of course, now, I can't leave. My need for a run to the store seems distant, after the fire in my son's eyes.
I will go into the house, attempt, much like a fortune teller with a crystal ball, to make the smoke clear and scry the meaning behind tonight's wall. I will bring my ladders, catapults, battering rams, all the tricks I have up my sleeves, anything -- everything -- in hopes of reaching, once more, that place where we sat together, laughing, when everything seemed so much easier, when all we had was time in front of us.
And when that doesn't work, I'll hug him goodnight, close the door, walk the short distance that feels like miles from his room to mine, and cry for all the wounds I've caused, for all the mistakes I've made, for the love unending that I somehow fail so often to communicate to him, for the two painfully short years I have left before he goes to college. I'll cry. And pray tomorrow I get it right.