When Michael was sweet sixteen, he decided to spend the entire summer at home rather than busing up north to sleep away camps. He helped babysit the twins and puttered in the barn with a welding gun, building a metal sculpture for the garden. He loved to garden. Each morning, before the sun was high, he irrigated the beds from the hose and rain barrel, and then spent a contented half-hour teasing weeds out from the softened soil. Rich sometimes came to help, and they would kneel back to back in the vegetable rows in silent companionship.
Then on a Monday, Michael heard a different sound, something more than hooting from the mourning doves. It was my voice. It was new but familiar and so immediately responsive to his every thought that at first, neither one of us realized there was an Other. His hands paused and touched down on his thighs, and he reflexively raised his face to the wind, but the sound wasn’t flying out there. It was within. His face flushed in recognition, and warmth simultaneously rushed my chest. I could swing from behind to in front of his eyes with a wish, or stand in both places at once.
Rich noticed the break in Michael’s movements and looked up. I hear her, Michael said quietly. He settled back on his haunches with a new solidity, and resumed the weeding. Rich knew the explanation would come later, and sensed that Michael had found something belonging to him and lost long ago.
“Tell me more about him” Blue invited. He meant it.
I eyed his frame. “Your height, six feet tall.”
“What does he look like?”
“Just short of GQ,” I shot back, and Blue smiled appreciatively. “Wavy auburn hair, gray eyes. He wears glasses but not all the time, and there is something slightly Asian about the cheekbones.”
“How is he similar to you?”
“He is nothing like me.” He commands a room when he enters, but without any arrogance. People instantly trust and respect him, and he never needs to shout. He is strong but not overbuilt, and moves crisply, efficiently. When he plays with the horses, mounting them like a pommel in mid canter, I can see the gymnastic form he inherited from the Space Flyers. I sometimes glimpse him striding across Harvard Yard, his graduation gown draped and billowing around him on each side. He is the kind of person who can see a problem and fix it before other people have noticed. The air around him is warm and quiet, slightly sunny and sad, such that small children wander up to investigate. He lets them play with his fingers and pull on his pant leg before he absent mindedly reaches to fuzz under their chins or pull them onto his lap. Most people would tell him their secrets if given the opportunity. I had never known him to be angry except once, when he thought my life was in danger. His hands are always quietly busy, whittling wood, cooking, playing music, reaching for my face or to rest on the high of my back to reassure me.
My eyes widened.
“Would you like to meet him?” I asked Blue.
“I think that would be fascinating, and an honor,” he responded, with no note of alarm. “How do you imagine it would happen?”
Michael stood downstairs on the building’s front stoop in a leather bomber jacket and jeans, the strap of a cross-body bag cutting diagonally into his torso. He dials Blue’s security code and upstairs, I hear the phone vibrate on a low bookshelf. Blue presses a button to open the door, but Michael does not go in.
“You have to go down to meet him,” I explained. “He won’t come up.”
“Why?” Blue asked.
“Because he doesn’t belong in here.”
Then we were both downstairs in our jackets, and I watched Blue and Michael shake hands. Michael held Blue back so that I could move ahead, and I slowly led them up Connecticut Avenue past the corner café, the cheap jewelry store, the comfort shoe boutique, and Blue’s favorite music shop with ratty announcements about local performances on the glass of the front door. Out the corner of my eye and in reflections in storefront windows, I saw the two of them talking quietly, just far enough behind to muffle their words.
I blinked slowly and was back on Blue’s sofa.
“Someday,” I told him.