city · home · Uncategorized

New Home

Kairoa Rooftop Bar at University Heights - Kairoa Brewing Company

The Children’s Moon disappears and is replaced by an itinerant blue, temperature leveling out in the low San Diego 70’s. Regardless, I’m wearing my sartorial coat and tie in some nod to Sundays past, feet bedecked in blue suede shoes. 20,000 steps in the new neighborhood (and perhaps the shoes could’ve been reconsidered, Carl Perkins be damned). I now live in University Heights, North Park’s westerly neighbor. It’s a short two blocks to University Avenue, one block west of Park Blvd. Essentially I’m in the city middle and can alligator around (h/t Berninger) past the myriad bars and storefronts; the shrouded Alano Club; numerous coffeeshops and  urban churches, which are incongruously gothic amid the cold-cathode streetlamps and stainless steel bus stops. I choose a direction. Magnetism has me going south toward the Boulevard’s beginning. A neon sign denotes where the Boulevard begins its leisurely sprawl into the East County nether lands a good twenty miles or so In this part of town, phosphorescent beacons demarcate the neighborhoods: The Boulevard, University Heights (the sign shaped like a trolley), Hillcrest, Normal Heights and North Park. This is my range, my hood, my urban respite. I pass Lestat’s–my caffeine and lemon bar dispensary—then Twiggs Café where serendipitously I run into my friends Leah and Rick, Leah being my best friend from SeaWorld days. Leah is buying a skull ring from a silversmith outside the storefront (but of course ‘sklllls’, as Leah would say) and Rick is half-hidden by his mask. Leah, I notice has dyed a streak of her hair purple, which I dig, and Rick is sporting a Duchenne smile above his covering. Good to see them, and it ferries my mood as I turn left on Adams Avenue. Adams is the outlying thoroughfare on the mesa, Mission Valley thrumming below in all its Big Box vainglory. Adams is more humble than either University or the Boulevard, characterized by petit restaurants, consignment stores, and antique shops. It’s a mile or two to 30th Avenue, due east, which is portal to my Old World: North Park. This is where my circumambient and daily wanderings have earned me the title of Honorary Mayor. I turn right, now headed south, to check on my constituents. It’s been a month since I’ve haunted the avenues, North Park a veritable borough in its own right, restaurant capitol of San Diego. You can’t throw a rock on 30th without hitting a good eatery, let alone one of the seemingly infinite brewhouses with their chattershot curbside patios. By this time, the blue suede shoes have me singing a tune defiantly un-Elvis, but I push on into North Park proper, past the thermionic emissions of the North Park sign, and into the T-32 district (Thorn and 32nd). This was my daily for sixteen years, the district home to a brewhouse, a barbecue pit, a liquour store, a mom-and-pop grocery store, a ceramic collective, an art expressive studio, a barber and a stylist, a pizza joint and Santos coffeeshop—all within a two block stretch. I end my meander at the coffeeshop, happy to see my favorite baristas Lis and Maya closing up shop for the day. I was touched to learn they had noticed my month-long absence, missed me even, so I ended my urban safari there. I had to call a Lyft due to my pained feet, and cruised past Balboa Park (now closer to me than ever, maybe a mile trek) with its sculptural eucalyptus and sprinkler spoilt lawns. This altogether, all the various communities in concrete glory is Home now, a Home just redefined and with different and sprawling parameters. Home is where I want to be. I guess I’m already there.

city · home · neighborhood

Lent by God and Gardeners

On one of my walks this week, I saw an astroturf lawn being watered by a sprinkler, and briefly I thought I was in Los Angeles. AA Gill wrote that in LA, everything is “[l]ow creeping faux family friendly, built in a vernacular of amateur whim and sentimental detail, patched onto functional boxes with occasional touches of eccentricity.” He continues to say that “the major architectural direction is lent by God and gardeners”, and that “the overall sense is of hasty impermanence, a city thrown up on a whim while they thought of something serious to put in its place.”

But North Park is not Los Angeles. Excepting the sprinkler watering refined, green plastic (in actuality also watering a bed of blooming and triumphant agapanthas), North Park is more like Pasadena with its vintage Craftsman homes, gables, and porches.

I pause in front of poet Maggie Jaffe’s old house on Granada, the one that used to be hemmed in by deep hedgerows and planted with citrus. Many nights I spent there with sheafs of letters and poetry, erstwhile scotch, and the company of compatriots, every room in the two story house lined with books, every room potential for a Mary Shelley-style soiree, writers retiring to individual spaces to pen their novels and craft their poems, inspired by bound novels and carefully selected furniture. Now the house is naked and without greenery, a seemingly disused basketball hoop perched on a dead lawn, a sign saying ‘in escrow.’ Memories.

There is a crow that rides the spokes of an abandoned bicycle, with a flutter of wings circuitously jumping the rear hub, centrifugal, turning circles on the wheel in corvid enjoyment while the city wakes up, a low sun reflecting off eastern clouds and turning the palms golden. The squirrels in urban rodent fashion trace the telephone wires with tails flicking; they grip the cables and chatter at every passerby, chastisement of the less arboreal. They are responsible for all the broken fruits on the pavement and somehow survive the buzzing power lines while practicing their thieveries, scrabbling from wire to tree, tree to wire and, with scratches of nails, bursting across the pavement in mad scrambles.

A woman in a blue parka walks a bloodhound who’s snuffling the pavement looking for urban truffles. His ears drag through puddles from the morning rain, nose working overtime in houndian fashion, eyes down , tail pumping happy else intrigued by the smells invigorated by the brief rainfall. “Good morning, Pupaloo,” I say because I say good morning to all the animals when I walk like some modern day St. Francis—the people too-because for us early-risers, there is something special about the dawn and why we’re awake when everyone else has yet to percolate their coffees and toast their bagels.

I recognize all the buses now as they vacuum up their early patrons, accordion buses with whooshes of air brakes to interrupt the cloisters of bus stop culture, disparate peoples surrounding benches and smoking their first cigarettes, drinking cuppas while they wait. Nomad Donuts where the patisseriers are rolling the first crullers, down to a sleeping Carnitas’ where I met my friend Sara with her culinary tattoos, where when I was down one day and where the sign proclaimed, ‘Sold Out’, I still got foie gras poutine and a smile.

Past Influx where Holly walks out and says, “Good Morning, Thom,” and she opens the Qwik Stop for me and I help her grab items from atop high shelves and unload groceries from her truck.

A sit outside of Alexander’s where they still feature the walnut gorgonzola pasta that Jenn and I shared on our first Valentine’s Day in North Park, pregnant with Cayden. The Lynhurst, the North Parker, Saguaro’s, Paesano’s, St. Pat’s and St. Luke’s in quick succession, Pigment with blades of mother-in-law tongue in the front window, the army surplus building, the bridal boutique and the Ray St. galleries. All these places, all the memories that I have—a decade’s worth—living in a city where I know everyone by name, my peripatetic wanderings past the edifices and storefronts, the gardens and gables. All this: my North Park, and—like the crow riding the spokes of the abandoned LimeBike—I turn circles in the morning, round and round the neighborhood enjoying enjoying my home.

cooking · food · home · neighborhood · people

When a Bee Sees a Flower, Legs Ready

My order is wrong, but I don’t exactly mind. I always order the tonkatsu with double dumplings, which at this point is an extravagance for me. You work with animals long enough, you start residing in the right-hand section of the grocery store longer than you used to, actually remarking the leeks and the raddichio with a reverance once reserved for the particular marbling in a ribeye or cullotte. You start to understand sentience, and even as sentience is extended fastly to plants (!), it just feels better having flesh be something you scoop from an avocado. Julia is the night manager at the ramen house, and she tells the nearby server: “I was expecting the ruckus anarchism tonight.” In between slurps of noodles (down a few dumplings), I can’t help but quip, “Excuse me Julia, did you not notice my particular ruckusness? I’m currently ruining your establishment as we speak.” I’m sitting and enjoying the lava stone fires, and she laughs as I rearrange my chopsticks, my bookbag contents spread around me. I DID have two ladlings of ghost chile sauce in my bowl, so there’s some whiff of mischief. I work on the egg–it’s really sweet–and experienced in eggery, I know there has been some kitchen mischief as well. Trick#1: braise the egg in soy and brown sugar, crack the shell with back of a spoon mid-simmer, and let the egg absorb both salt and saccharine. Madhur Jaffery, who cooked James Beards’ hospice meals threw in rosemary as good and strange measure; also shiaoxing. Trick #2: slow-poach the egg in its shell–takes twenty minutes at sous-vide temp–then rest the egg in a marinade. Either way, you get an egg you won’t find at Denny’s. If you think about it, the drive-in, diner shit is a hundred years old; global cuisine is much older. Michael Pollan makes a point: eat Old World stuff. Tomatoes and olive oil, as example. Basis of Mediterranean food culture–the combination of ingredients are symbiotic, meaning one ingredient heightens the other in health benefit. It took a co-evolution of plants and people to figure this out, which is why Old World food is better.
I push aside my bowl–too much meat in it. I’m at a corner stool, and Julia is still floating around, tamping down the apparent ruckus that has yet to demonstrate itself. I ask for the check, and I thank her. “Hey–first full meal in a while.” She smiles, “You fasting?” I look down at myself, then back at her. “No,” I laugh. “It’s just been a rough week, so thank you. It’s actually been a fantastic day.” I draw from my reserves and from how I thoughtfully cook as a philosophical thing. “Julia I’m great,” I say. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and I know that you are what you eat. The bill comes back, and it’s a fraction of what I owe. I tip big and duck away. Julia writes me a note on the receipt, which I tuck into my pocket, and I smile at her on the way out.
Tomatoes make EVOO healthier, vice versa. There is the mutualism of butterflies and plants. There is echanged acknowledgement, like when a bee sees a flower, legs ready.

city · home · neighborhood · people

Duchenne Smile

“Oh, is this your bench?” she apologizes, and I poo-poo her.

“It’s not MY bench, perse, I just like to sit here. Please don’t leave on my account.” I thumb back to my right. “There’s also an Adirondack chair around the corner in the weeds where I can sit for a spell.”

She has dramatic eyes: orange and plumbago above a plain surgical mask. She is pretty, I can tell.

I pet her dog, which has the broad and intimidating head of a pittie, but is puppy-breathed sweet. Brindle with tail wagging.

“I’ve seen you,” she says.

“Oh yeah?”

“31st and Thorn, I think.”

“I’m all over this joint” I say, waving vaguely to the city, which I have fastly considered my home.

This is becoming more and more a thing: I get recognized for simply being the perambulist of Altadena, the outskirts of North Park. I have made so many instant friends, it’s crazy.

“What’s your name?”


“Nice to meet you, Pam,” and we don’t shake hands because we’re mummified in masks and decorum., but she smiles.

A Duchenne smile has two components: a contraction of the zygomatic major muscle, which raises the corner of the mouth; and an elsewhere contraction of the orbicularis oculi muscle, which results in crow’s feet.

Pam’s smile meets the Duchenne requisite: the orange and plumbago make a sunset out of her eyes. Though I can’t see her mouth, I know she’s grinning.

There’s an opposite, you know: the Pan Am smile, which involves the zygomatic muscles only. You know who showcases this grin? Beleagured flight attendants, threatened chimpanzees, and Botoxed out injectees.

A chalk drawing outside the Art Studio says: ‘What if six feet and a mask made us all closer?” I love this sentiment. There’s a certain kindness these days, more ‘hellos’ and waves. Duchennes smiles for days, which you can see above masks, smiles reaching the eyes.

We’re all in this together. May your smile crest the edge of your nosepiece, may it show in a twinkle of the eye. Blessings.

Nice to meet you, Pam.

city · home · neighborhood · people

Mr. North Park

His name is Dennis, though I refer and have referred to him as Mr. North Park for years. I see him everywhere, riding Kermit on his bicycle with spindles for legs, often clutching a walking cane in defiance of his ten-speed, and sometimes an umbrella in defiance of the weather. The other day, there was a slight sprinkle, but the umbrella that he clutched was ultimately beachy, like a tasseled parasol, and he pedaled his bike with one hand, his shillelagh on point.

Dennis always wears a felt beret, either green or burgundy. His thin but longish hair coils out from beneath the hat like greying payot and sometimes he smokes a pipe, though it’s usually a cigarette. When I met him, the fact of his tobacco was obvious in his dearth of teeth, the remaining ones brown-tinged and worn, like miniature ice cream sundaes in his mouth.

“Hi. I’m Thom—” I offered, “What’s your name?” Dennis was cooly smoking a Nat Sherman on the street corner with a paperback novel tucked under his arm. He wore his typical moustache, which was Burt Reynolds minus the Grecian Male. We shook hands.


“I see you all over town. Thought I’d introduce myself.”

Because you see, I’m also Mr. North Park, the neighborhood being my peripatetic beat and I can quote to you all the architects that built this town in concrete slab and inspiration—the Requas and Gills and Meads. I’ve been to every establishment, and everyone knows my name: from Dougie, the homeless man who lives by the Qwik Stop; to Tomaso the acne-faced kid at the defuncting coffeeshop; to Timothy the fire-pit boss at the BBQ joint. Gabe, Lauren and Mike; Rose who mixes my ras el hanout at the spice shop; and Tony, who like Dennis, has worn-down teeth over at Holiday, just from eating too many sunflower seeds. He can be caught speaking Aramaic on the phone, heatedly, with his who-knows-who friends, but Aramaic was the language of Christ.

“I’ve lived here ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” Dennis said, in which case both he  and the grasshopper have grown—just like the city—and we talk about looming gentrification. We talk about the ashes of old establishments gone the way of the dinosaur, and the new eggs which have appeared in their stead.

“So long as it doesn’t become downtown,” I complained.

There, however, is a concept of amor fati, in which case you wouldn’t have it any other way, the idea of eternal recurrence, and looking at Dennis’ semi-myopic eyes, we see each other for a second, and shaking hands, Mr. North Park meets Mr. North Park and I walk back into the city.

city · home · neighborhood

What People Leave Behind

wet raccoonMind you, I’m not a hoarder. I’m a friendly little junkman like David Sedaris says, collecting stray pieces to tell stories.

And forgive me, Jenny, I bring things home like a wet raccoon with a half-eaten frog in its mouth running across the bed. I collect things from the back alleys I walk through, to marvel them momentarily, before returning them to alley pasture. These things I find.

It’s like looking through jeweler’s loupe with one eye squint shut. Yesterday I found an abandoned photo album: a leather-bound volume with pictures, water-stained, of a 1970’s trip to the Carribean, followed by a trip to the LV desert when the buildings were rare, but raised high by the roofbeams.

I found a 78 rpm that read, A-side, ‘Girl of My Dreams, and the B, “A Man Comes Around.”

I found a spilt bag of cosmetics and a brassiere at a bus stop, as if the Rapture had happened to a 36B.

I found a box of books today, and collected twenty; there were pictures in there, of a daughter lost: an abandoned frame with a little girl, maybe eight, and a grip of high school portraits. I pocketed them and hung them on my wall. I took the books.

I found a flower growing in the sewage; I found a contrail that grew suddenly bright pink as the sun rose and it made an arc across the sky.


I found me.

bipolarity · home · neighborhood · people · sobriety · writing

Restless Heart Syndrome

I have a few friends with restless leg syndrome, which is in reference to Willis-Ekbom disease. It causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them.

Not me. Although I have the urge to walk everywhere, I have diagnosed myself instead with restless heart syndrome.

Over a prosciutto and gruyere sandwich, I espy the bookstore—Verbatim—where I have looked for Denis Johnson to no avail and where a man offers me a leather coat to sell at the Hunt and Gather.

“I’m looking for forty—if I get $40, I’ll give you twenty.”

“I can try, Man,” I say, “But I’ll just give you the $40.” He has no identification because most likely he has no address. I try and sell the coat for him—he found it on the street—to no reward, and I walk on.

People with faces—it is Sunday—and like a moving Seurat painting, they dot the street, faces moving with hats and without; it is cold and people wear coats.

I am overdressed. I wear a blazer, a chartreuse shirt, purple tie, and olive peacoat. I deny the weather for the sake of being dandy, dressing for a clime not my own but boasting grandiosity as I carry the whole of the world on my shoulders. The coffee was excellent, and I am sober. Roses, they are thrown for me.

How to describe this? This feeling. When it is, you discover the combination to a lock that has been locked for years—click—how to describe this?

I write funny words in my head: “penguin dust and roman coin soup”; I call my friends with abandon and kiss the old ones, Gidget who has visited with sleeves rolled up to reveal her sleeves, ink of phoenixes and naked women.

Mhuah,” she kisses me on the lips and I say, ‘Thank you,” for it is Sunday and there’s no need for coins in the meter and my sponsor has called me.

He wears a creaking leather jacket and an Unwritten Law tee-shirt: “it’s the law of eternal recurrence,” he might’ve said,” which is amor fati, and the fact that you wouldn’t have it any other way.

And I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You use active, not passive voice in writing, and I write in present active in denial of the past, my restless heart my restless heart.

home · people

New Moon

lightsIt’s on her Bucket List, the Northern Lights, and Elaine and I are driving to the airport to make that happen. I’m along for the ride, will pilot her car back home.

She flags her hand outside the window: “It’s supposed to rain for nine days. Gawd.”

“Does that affect visibility?” I ask, and make a mental note to look this up when I get home. I’m a fan of phenomena.

“No, it shouldn’t. It has to do with solar particles or something, and this is the best time of year for viewing. It’s also a New Moon.”

The moon is waning, true. New moon soon, though it feels like it now.

“You’ll have to drive Ethan to the store,” she instructs, meaning her grandson who is now in the back house sans his grandmother.

“I will,” I say, and feel happy that she is giving me responsibility. Ethan’s a good kid. Will probably survive on cereal the entire time his grandmother Elaine is gone. I make a note to bring him some otherwise food because he’s a growing kid.

“How’re you doing, Ethan?” I always ask.

“’Chillin’” he always says.

I remember when Ethan was younger and I found him in mine and Elaine’s shared yard and he was staring at the half-moon catatonic, frozen in place as if transfixed by some unseen Northern Light himself.


No answer. Just stock still, vibrating in place.

His sister would die five years later in a horrible car crash, and it was like he predetermined this.

“He’s got a bus pass at least,” Elaine says, “He just needs to go to Vons.”

“I’ll take him.”

“Cereal. He’ll probably just eat cereal.” And she reminds me: “NO parties!”

I laugh and that New Moon is approaching, which is a way of saying the old moon is dying, and in dropping Elaine off at the airport I give her a hug and say to myself, “I promise.”


Cayden · home · neighborhood

Hygge Home

hyggeWe’re walking back from the corner store, me and Cayde, and remark that the house next to the avenue brewhouse is being sold, which is of no surprise because living next to that kind of traffic and clamor and smoke must be hell on the serenity, not to mention that Trivia Night is of a volume undialable on the TV set. Mixing potent potables and the category named for them is a noisy affair; we hear the huzzahs a block and a half away and, really, maybe it’s of some encouragement that the pursuit of knowledge should rally such raucousness, but try living next to it: you’d probably wish for Team Solitaire Night instead, or Silent Charades Tuesday.

I’ll miss these neighbors, actually, and not because I know them but rather I know their cats, which are gargantuan toms that roam the neighborhood with aplomb, one and a half stone apiece, and they lend the neighborhood a sense of proportion. They make the small houses look their size as the felines sit fat cat on the various porch stoops, furry paperweights.

We live in a neighborhood of pre-War—meaning the first one—bungalows, none exceeding 1000 square feet, Craftsman by design if not Spanish. ‘Quaint’ and ‘charming’ are words used in the Classifieds, because these houses can’t be sold by an exaggerated number of rooms—5 ½ bedrooms! 2 ¾ baths! Nothing in our small corner of North Park is sporting more than 3 beds and a toilet; hell, our bathroom is a mid-century add-on. What must have been the old WC is now Cayden’s den, which barely houses his desk and all his Lego StarWars models. And the kids have to share a room and sleep in a bunk bed, my closet is in the kids’ room whereas Jenn duchesses the master closet, but we love it.

“Daddy,” Cayden asks as we pass the ‘For Sale’ sign, “What’s your dream house?” and I am quick to answer.

“Nothing too big. Then I’d have to fill it with stuff I don’t need nor want.”

Cayde is as quick to reply: “Me neither. I just want, like, a den with maybe a television,” and he goes on to describe a house of maybe 200 sq. foot proportion, like one of those mini-cabins you see at trade shows, else an Airstream he could tow around with a modicum of hp.

Cayde is my little goldfish. Goldfish are indeterminate growers, meaning they grow until they die, but generally they develop to fit the size of their tanks. And, Jenn and I think, maybe, that Cayden has grown to fit our house, that he really doesn’t think or want in larger proportion than what he’s used to. Sure he’s been to larger, more grandiose abodes, but they’ve never inspired money-lust in him, or an undue Veruca Salt desire for square footage. No house on the hill for Cayden. He’d rather a house in the valley. One, preferably with his brother, and maybe still with bunk beds.

It shows in how Cayden nests, and it’s always fun tucking him in because it’s hard to determine where Cayde ends and the blankets begin. He has no less than six throws on his bed and were he not eleven and checking everyday to see if he’s sprouted an armpit hair overnight, he’d probably still have a menagerie of stuffies, too. His two favorite Christmas presents—besides the Playstation—were an electric blanket and a whimsical unicorn onesie which he’ll often don in the nighttime, and he wears this to be absurd, for one, but, two, to fulfill I think, his natural cozying instinct. I used to cocoon myself in blankets as a kid, just shy of needing a bed snorkel, and Cayden does the same.

Hygge is the Danish practice of cozying up a house, and our haven is pure hygge: overstuffed living room, texture, hearth: everything to add intimacy to a space. There are books and candles and cast-iron pans; guitars and obliviously sleeping cats; quilts and throws and saffron pillows. My wife has done most the decorating and she’d done so fantastically, to where Cayden is the happy goldfish, and where I myself want nothing more than the humble space we already have.

“I think, Daddy,” Cayden says as we make our way home, bounty from the Mom n’ Pop pendulum-swinging from our respective wrists. We pass one of the gigantic toms who is splayed out and seemingly soaking up half the sun’s energy. “I think our house is just the right size.”

“We also don’t have to live next to the brewpub, so there’s that.” The ‘For Sale’ is bright pink, loud as the clamor next door where there is the incessant sound of clinking glass and sports on the television.

And when all you want is a right-sized life, it’s good to start with a right-sized house.

Cayden · family · home · parenting

School Pictures

My son Cayde sat opposite the couch from me mired in spiral-bound notebooks and three-ring binders. He had one ear bud in, the cord of which trailed to the computer, and there was the small tintinnabulation of EDM playing incessant 6/4 time while Cayde typed on the keyboard. His face was illuminated by the laptop screen, underlit like a boy playing with a flashlight beneath the covers, eyes and nose done up in alien shadow. I studied him from across the way, surreptitiously, so as not to interrupt him with my gaze. In between keystrokes he’d reach over and pluck a few grapes from a plate next to him, else crunch on a pita chip dipped in hummus: just a boy doing his homework, without rile. He could almost be described as inexpressive, which made studying him that much more an objective exercise; me tracing the lines of his face with my eyes; following those rounded cheeks down to the jut of his chin; remarking his brow, smooth, yet to be furrowed with the worries of age. The block of his hair fell weightily to the right and threatened need of cutting. Behind Cayde, the living room window reflected the night’s Spanish homework, now beyond my reading level, but Cayde’s eyes flickered along comprehendingly, and the window flickered as quickly, displaying flashes of light and color while Cayde parsed through the various screens.

It occurred to me suddenly, that though Cayden was wrapped in his custom makeshift nest of cushions, pillows and blankets, obviously at home and content; that though his mom and dad were in the room and reflected in the window screen as well; that I didn’t know exactly who Cayden looked like anymore, that I could’ve been looking at a stranger across the playground. Perhaps it was the under-lighting, the martian glow provided by the computer, but suddenly eleven seemed a world away from every myriad age Cayde had been up until this evening, back when his features were recognizable morphs: my eyes, Jenn’s nose, his grandmother’s cherubic cheeks. Now he was just Boy, caught somewhere in between features, on his way to something pre-adolescent and independent of his heredity, if briefly. As if his genes were unloosed and given free expression for a moment, allowed to rearrange to their own liking.

I cocked my head and tried looking at him from a different angle, trying to take him in. I was reminded of the time I visited the Grand Canyon when I was in high school. I was with my friend Ryan, and we were perched on the East Rim overlooking one of the canyon’s sprawling vistas. Unlike anything embossed in miniature on a postcard, the Canyon was immeasurable, irreducible, and no matter of perspective allowed the eye to capture it at once. So, too, looking at Cayde was like trying to minimize something far too expansive to take in at one time. I searched his face for something essential, something recognizable, that would frame him in the moment, as readily as the windowpane behind him squared his figure on the chaise, the reflections in the glass haloed his head in illuminative graphics. He continued typing on the keyboard, occasionally shaking the bangs loose from his forehead; I studied his mannerisms, still careful not to disturb him with my stare, and slowly Cayde emerged, by nature of his small movements. It was like watching a painting come alive, a two-dimensionality wrest its away into the unlikely third, and it was the gestures, the particular way in which Cayde reached for his grapes or the way in which he adjusted the laptop screen, that reminded me of my boy. Still, I couldn’t see myself in him, his mother for that matter either.

On cue, Jenn tapped me on the shoulder from her perch behind me on the orange recliner. “Take a look at these.”

“Hmm? What?” I asked, woken out of my reverie. “Oh,” and I collected a portfolio she had handed me.

“School pictures.”

I slid the photos from their sheath, and there was Cayde’s face in multiplicate, matte and frozen in smile.

“Doesn’t he look like my dad?” Jenn asked. “Like young pictures of him,” she elaborated.

“I dunno,” I said, squinting. “I was just wondering that I don’t know who Cayde looks like anymore.”

Cayde looked up from his screen, face still illuminated in silver light, and deftly held up his hands between philtrum and his chin. “From here to here, I look like Mommy,” he announced, before returning to finish his Spanish.

His self-awareness is sudden relief and once he closes the laptop, the light-show turned off so that there’s just the nothingness of the window behind him, I in part recognize him again, and he looks up at me which are my eyes, surely; headlamps are passing vagaries in the street and Cayde is occasionally silhouetted, and we look at each other with shared eyes and I slide the school pictures slowly back into their sheath.