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My Angel

I have always loved your hair. A wild nest of mahogany ringlets and waves. You don’t like it being brushed, such hair tends to twist into knots, but you let me brush it still. “Tarzan hair”, you called it. I’d laugh as you beat your tiny chest with tiny fists, releasing a war cry far more adorable than frightening. My little Tarzan, swinging from playground vines in a backyard jungle.

You’re such a bright boy, vibrant and curious. You ask so many good questions. “Why does the caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Is he not happy as a caterpillar?” I’m not the most knowledgeable teacher, but I try. “The caterpillar is happy, but he is meant for more. Why would you walk when you could fly?” If I could fly, I’d gather you in my arms and whisk us far away into a land of elves, castles, and spring flowers. I’d keep you safe, and we’d live forever.

They say you look more like me than you do your father. You have my round brown eyes and freckled skin. I wonder what he would do if he were here. Would we hold hands and sing your favorite songs? You loved his voice, rich and soothing, like hot honeyed tea on a cold winter’s night. He’d scoop you up in sturdy arms and fly you to the moon. You thought he was the world’s strongest man. “One day, I’ll be even stronger,” you’d say. You’d flex your little muscles, and I’d squeeze them with amazement.

Now you lay on a bed that isn’t yours. The blankets are thin, and they don’t have dinosaurs on them like they had back home. You said you didn’t mind. We’d snuggle up together in them just the same. When the night sounds frightened you, I’d soothe you with whispered fables and promises of sunshine. “What if the sun doesn’t come back?” you’d ask. “Then we’ll make our own sun,” I’d say. You liked that idea. I know that your sun would have shined the brightest.

The music of the night is thunderous. Wind and rain, weapons and wails; but I hear only the sound of your shallow breaths and the pounding of my panicked heart. I run my fingers through your tangled, Tarzan hair. It hasn’t been brushed in a long time, but it suits you - wild and unfettered, the crown of a warrior. You look like an angel in the flickering candlelight. I wonder what kind of angel you’ll be. I think you’d make a wonderful guardian, perhaps you’ll be my guardian. Will you still want to cuddle when you’re iridescent and mighty?

You stir in your slumber. You’ve been sleeping for a while. I’ve been ladling soup into your mouth when you lay conscious for a fleeting moment, wondering if it’s enough. The soup is cold, but you don’t complain. You lay shivering in your burrow of blankets, towels, and clothing. I am sorry that I cannot keep you warm. I am sorry that you are so young.

Your eyes flutter open as you wake. It is not the slow, sleepy arousal you’ve displayed before - when you call out to me in the smallest voice and I rush to you with soup and song. You have eyes like one of them, steely and black. When I peer into them, I see nothing. You don’t call out “Mother” or grasp for my love. You bare your baby teeth to the world but they’re not sharp enough to sustain you.

You no longer labor over hollowed breaths. I watch your chest rise and fall with near ordinary cadence. But you are not ordinary. You are my Tarzan, my little warrior, my astronaut.

I place our pillow atop your face and press.

And now, you are my angel.