Jimmy walked down the hall toward his bedroom. It had been another in a string of long days. It seemed long days were the only kind that there were anymore. He was bone tired and his head longed for his pillow and the arms that would unconsciously wind around him. She wouldn't wake but she would seek the comfort of him being close.
As loudly as the pillow and his warm bed called to him, he found himself stopping halfway down the hall. He stood there for a moment and then gave in to the pull he felt to enter that room. There was a chair next to the bed in that room. He had pulled it nearer the bed when he sat and tucked his son in earlier. He had told the boy stories of every sort he could think until he finally saw the child's eyes getting heavy. Now, in the still darkness he allowed a silent chuckle at the way those heavy eyes flew open when he had stood to leave.
"Pa," the boy had pleaded with him, "Please don't go yet."
"You need your sleep and your ma will have my head if I don't let you get it."
He acted exasperated by the nightly ritual of stories and drinks of water that the boy used to delay the inevitable bedtime but really this was possibly his favorite time of the day. He would first ask his son about his day and sit back and listen to the exciting adventures of the world as seen through seven year old eyes. Then he would read a bit to the boy and finally he would tell the child stories about his old friends, about the Pony Express, about Teaspoon Hunter and about those he'd seen taken from the earth far too early. He knew some of the stories got repeated but the boy never minded at all.
Always the boy would balk when Jimmy tried to leave the room and always it was for the same reason.
"But Pa," he would whine, "There's a monster under my bed. I just know there is."
And every night Jimmy would dutifully crawl on his hands and knees placing the lamp on the floor to allow him sight in the shadows of the area under his son's bed. He would straighten up and honestly attest to the absence of monsters.
Finally he would be able to place a kiss on his son's forehead and leave the room and know that his boy's sleep would be undisturbed by danger. He liked to imagine the kind of dreams a child that age might have. He figured they were full of fishing and catching lightning bugs and maybe even knights in armor having great duels or slaying dragons to save fair maidens.
Most nights he wouldn't make it straight to bed and would find himself in the chair at the bedside knowing that he was a truly fortunate man to be allowed to witness such a thing. It was a time of quiet reflection for Jimmy as he thought on how easily his life could have been something so entirely different. He had tried to make it something different as well. He had thought to create for himself a life of adventure, a life where he would never stay one place for long and where he'd never have to worry about those attachments to people that could turn so hurtful when the people failed you. He'd planned how it would happen and how things would go. It was a romantic vision and a romantic figure he cut in those plans.
Once Jimmy could have said he feared nothing and he wouldn't have been lying or even bragging but now, he feared so very much. Just the other day he was standing by his son's side in town and the boy had almost run out in front of an incoming stage. Jimmy had snatched the boy into his arms in time and then put him down reminding him to hold hands when they crossed. His son recovered quickly and was chattering happily about his friend Tommy playing a trick on their teacher by placing a frog in her desk drawer. It was a story Jimmy only half heard over the frantic pounding of his own heart. Had he been alone right then he might have sat down and cried from the fear that anything at all could take that boy from him. The tears did come that night after the house was silent and Jimmy was sitting in the chair at the bedside once again.
He looked now upon the boy and was struck as he often was by the beauty. Perhaps others did not allow the word beautiful in reference to a male child but Jimmy thought no other word could describe the vision before him. In a moment like this one he could take comfort in the steady rise and fall of the boy's chest and the way his mouth twitched intermittently into half smiles at things Jimmy could only wonder about.
Someday this boy would be a man and perhaps sit at his own son's bedside. It was odd; Jimmy thought that there were times he wanted to keep the boy small forever. Those times when he wanted to never hear anything from the boy but the adventures of a young boy who thought frogs were far preferable to girls, who still made faces when his folks kissed that rivaled when he was made to eat his vegetables. But other times he wanted to race to that point where he could meet the man his son would become, see the girl who would strike his fancy, try to give his son advice on how to court her and eventually even bounce grandchildren on his knee.
These last seven years had gone like a whirlwind and he even lamented sometimes that the tiny infant and chubby faced toddler were long gone from him. He knew the coming years would pass by just as quickly and that was why he cherished these quiet moments watching the small boy.
Finally he stood knowing morning would come before he was ready for it and would bring another long day along with it. He bent and kissed his son's cheek lingering a moment to draw in the scent of his hair which still smelled of freshness and sunshine.
"Goodnight my beautiful boy," he whispered and watched the smile spread as his words made their way into the dream world his son inhabited.
Leaving the room the exhaustion once again gripped him as he made his way down the remainder of the hall. He entered his bedroom and studied the shape of the woman under the blankets. He shed his clothes down to his long johns and climbed in next to her. As she did every night, she rolled to him and her arms sought him and the comfort his presence gave her. He pulled her closer and held her tight as he did every night. He nestled his face into her hair and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"Thank you," he mouthed not even daring to utter so much as a whisper. He thanked her every night when she was asleep as she'd push away the gratitude if she heard his thanks. He hoped in his waking hours he did enough to repay her the richness she had given his life by not only being a part of it but by bringing that boy down the hall into the world. Sleep at last overtook him as he rested peacefully in her arms and dreamt of the life that had happened when he wasn't looking.
Beautiful Boy - John Lennon
Close your eyes,
Before you go to sleep,
Out on the ocean sailing away,
Before you cross the street,