Between the Buttons and the Curious Case Thereof

The waitress was cute. She smiled when she brought me my Bloody Mary and again with each Black and Tan. It was the kind of smile that men with receding hairlines who are sitting next to their wives get from women who are used to being ogled and only know what it is to be young.

The game was good. The company was better. Her tip was bigger than it should have been.

We went to the movies. It wasn’t that we were all that curious about Benjamin Buttons and whatever his case may be, but my sister’s boyfriend had been an extra in the film while he was living in New Orleans and seeing it with him meant I had a sporting chance of selling his ticket stub on eBay. Possibly signed. Benjamin Buttons, in this case, was an investment.

The movie was long. It was about a lifetime and it felt like it. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it. We did. It just left us tired. Tired from laughing. Tired from crying. Tired from living. It left us tired like we had been drinking all day and then sat in a bag of butter and popcorn for three hours. It made us tired like that.

The boyfriend-in-law had his moment on the silver screen. We never saw his face, but his back was in clear view for some time. He swore it was him and we had no reason to doubt it. His ticket stub is in auction for 17 more hours. Buy it now for $100!

The movie made Tricia cry which is something she never does, except at movies or in the car while listening to Puff the Magic Dragon. The effect on me was far worse than the loss of a few tears—it made me think.

For the first time that day I missed my children. I’m aware of how awful that sounds. I’ve said worse.

There had been football and drinks and waitresses that would have ignored me 10 years ago when I had more hair and less ring. I had thought about the boys often, but I had enjoyed my time away. I had enjoyed being me, or what passes for it these days.

At one point I almost got up. I wanted to walk out of the movie and go straight to my sons and tell them everything I’ve ever wanted to. I wanted to comfort their fears about life and the living of it. I wanted to comfort myself. I could see what I needed to do and in my vision they actually listened and it was tender and melancholy and bittersweet. My vision was a movie and it was about a lifetime.

We drove home in silence. There was music playing and streets heavy with traffic and the festive lighting of a day gone by. I watched the road with one eye and Tricia’s reflection with the other. Her mind was far away and I was too selfish to reach for it.

The boys ran to me when I entered the room. I fell to one knee and accepted them and their bounty of hugs and kisses. Three days past and they were still high from Christmas and the sugar that coated it. I held them and tried to recall my vision. They smelled like peppermint and sugarplums. They danced in my head. I opened my mouth to tell them words and secrets and what I sell as wisdom but the only sound that escaped me was a rumbling of laughter, and it made their own roar all the louder.

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