Prayer helps. More than once I’ve said, “Lord, please do something. To make me not like _____ (insert man’s name).” Bad breath. That’s a good one. Sloth. That worked once. With the cute guy I served with at church years ago. He had longish black hair going gray and an awesome radio voice. I think that might’ve been the first time I ever said, “Lord, do something.”
We both showed up for a work day at church. Him with his family. Me and mine. I overheard him talking to the pastor out in the parking lot.
“I don’t want to break a sweat. Know what I mean? Why don’t you buy and I’ll fly? To Lowe’s.”
Voila! Spell broken. Sloth makes my top lip twitch. Thanks, God.
Jake straightened and dusted the Millie hairs off his hands. Searched for and found his coffee. He stayed there, with his elbows on his thighs, sipping from time to time. I clanked my cup in its saucer. In case he wasn’t a hundred per cent sure where I was.
He turned his shoulders a bit. “I know what I want you to read today,” he said.
I pressed my palm to my forehead. “Dang it! I forgot my notebook.”
Silas came back out. Tapped Jake’s arm with a balled up, grey t-shirt.
“Thanks,” Jake said. He pulled it on. Much better.
“You really forgot your notebook?” Silas said. “Bummer. Hey, wait a minute. I know what we can do instead.” He turned to Jake. “Do you ever feel people’s faces like the blind people do on t.v. ?”
Jake’s forehead furrowed. “You know, I’ve never done that, but we can if you want.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and massaged my temples. This isn’t happening.
Silas stood and pushed chairs around. “This’ll be cool. Okay, so the person who’s getting their face felt sits here. The other two people sit across from him. Or her.”
Jake stood. “You guys go first,” he said. “Where’s my chair?”
Silas positioned him in the solo seat.
“You touch one side of his face. I’ll take the other,” I told Silas. ‘Cause I’m afraid to do both, all by myself.
Jake sat up taller. Pushed his chin out a bit. “Close your eyes,” he said. "Pretend you’re blind, like me.”
I cheated. I didn’t touch Jake. Didn’t shut my eyes either. Instead, I watched Silas. He ran his fingernails from Jake’s jaw to just under his eye. I listened to the dry, papery sound. Scruffy.
“Did you shave today?” Silas said. “It doesn’t feel like it.”
“Naw. I usually let it go until the weekend. Jenny’s around more then.”
Silas rubbed his pointer finger back and forth under Jake’s nose. “I can’t wait to have whiskers. It’s gonna be so cool.”
Jake chuckled. “Don’t say that. It's a pain in the butt, having to shave every day.”
“I don’t care,” Silas said. “I want a moustache.”
Jake turned away from Silas. “What do you think, Dana?” he said. “About my face? Aren’t you supposed to be touching it too?”
I swallowed. Reached out. Cupped his jaw in my palm. Felt a muscle tense. Held it a second more. Let go.
“It’s a nice face, Jake. Your coloring’s great. Very golden.”
“What about my eyes?” he said. “In high school, I was voted—“
I smiled. “Prettiest eyes,” I said. “I remember you telling me. What did I get? Do you remember?”
He nodded. “Class clown.”
I smiled. “Good memory.”
Jake rubbed his hands on his shorts. “What about my eyes now?”
“What do you mean?” But I knew.
“Do they look like poached egg whites? I remember the blind people I used to see. That’s what their eyes seemed like.” He made his eyes big.
What is that color? What does it remind me of? “Ever been to
? Or Gatlinburg?” Asheville
“So you know what the
look like?” Smoky Mountains
He squinted. Seemed to be remembering. “Kind of. Dark blue, with a little green? Is that what you mean?”
I focused on his wide open gaze. “Yeah, like that. Now picture them in the morning with the mist rising. Or fog. That’s what they're like—misted mountains. Not poached eggs.”
He covered his eyes for a minute then slid his hands down until they met—fingers lined up, palm to palm. For a minute, he looked like he was praying.
No one said anything for a bit. Silas pecked me on the leg. Mouthed now-what? I pointed to Jake’s head. To the silver-gold stubble. Silas rubbed it with his hand—back, forth, back.
“You’ve got great hair, Jake,” he said. “Like a recruiter for the military.” He made his voice deep. “‘The few. The proud. The Marines.’”
Jake and I laughed. “Good one, Si,” I said.
“Is my mouth still pretty?” Jake said. “Jenny used to say it was her favorite part of me.” Did she?
I traced it with my purple-black pinky nail. “She’s right, Jake. You could totally model Chapstick.”
I glanced down at his arm. Noticed the rash of goosebumps. My chair made a squawnky noise as I scooted back
I watched a shadow of disappointment flit across his face. You don’t remember how to mask your emotions, do you?
“Feel Silas’s face,” I said, injecting brightness into my tone. “Tell him how handsome he is.”
Jake swept his hand from side to side, searching. His wrist caught Silas’s ear. He floated his hand higher. Found the top of Silas’s head. Patted.
“Man, Silas. That’s a ton of hair. You should give me some.”
Looks like dandelion fluff, but curly.
Silas shook his head. “No way. Yours is better.”
“Aren’t his cheeks soft?” I said.
“And he wants whiskers,” Jake said. “Don’t be in a hurry to grow up, Silas. Don’t ever do that.”
Jake ran a finger down Silas’s nose.
“He’s got my nose and Joel’s mouth,” I said. “All three of you could be Chapstick models.”
Silas fidgeted. “Your turn, Mom. Trade me seats.”
Oh, no. I wondered if they noticed my sharp intake of breath. Silas stood. Then me. I lowered onto the chair. I felt Jake's hand above my head somewhere. When it dropped, my hairclip bit into my scalp.
“What’s that?” he said.
“My hair’s up.”
Jake’s nose wrinkled. “You have long hair now? But it was always short.”
“I know,” I said. “A few years back Joel told me, ‘You’ve had every short hair style there is. Why don’t you grow it long?’ So I did.”
“How long is it now?” Jake said. “Let it down.”
You’ve got to be kidding. I pinched the clip and my hair tumbled free.
“It’s halfway down her back,” Silas said. “And it’s the color of coffee.”
I chuckled. “Nice description, Si.”
Jake’s hand came at me. My lungs felt empty but I didn’t do anything about it. He found a hank of hair and followed it until his wrist collided with my shoulder.
“Wow,” he said softly. “That is long.”
I almost ducked when both his hands approached, on either side of my face. I locked eyes with Silas. Did you feel that? The air just thickened. Jake’s fingers combed through my hair. Went out the back.
“Nice,” he said. My cheeks felt suddenly sunburned.
“Face time,” Silas said. I glared at him.
What will my face feel like? I tried to remember what I looked like that morning. No little red bumps today. Good. And crow’s feet? I don’t think you can feel those.
Jake ran his fingers from my forehead to my chin. Kept going. Under my jaw. Stopped at my necklace.
“What’s this?” he said, rolling the chain back and forth.
“My cross necklace.”
“There’s other stuff on there too,” Silas said.
Jake’s finger explored each item.
“There’s a rock that says ‘faith,’” I said. “And a cross, of course. That’s a little pearl, like in the pearl of great price parable, if you know it. And the silver rectangle says, ‘GRACE.’”
Jake dropped his hands to the sides of his chair. Sat back. “So you believe?”
I saw Silas’s head tilt, but I knew what Jake was asking.
“Yes,” I said.
Jake scratched his arm a couple times before he spoke.
“And you think your God’s a good god?”
“Uh huh.” I know what you’re going to say, but please don’t.
“So exactly how do you explain what happened to me?”
I winced and put up my pointer finger. “Can you give me some time, Jake?” I said. “To gather my thoughts on that?"
Jake shifted. “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Then my mom’s coming for a few days. How ‘bout Friday?”
I counted on my fingers. One, two, three, four days. Whoo!
“Friday’s good,” I said.
I stood. Took Silas’s hand. Pulled him to standing. Scooped up Millie’s leash. Tugged. Gives me plenty of time to ponder the mysteries of pain and suffering and all that.
“And don’t forget your notebook,” Jake said. “'Cause I know what I want to hear next.”
His tone made me turn. “And what would that be?”
“Love stories. You do have love stories, don’t you?