I know, as much as I can know anything, that she hears water and laughter outside. The quick shimmer of her son’s own laugh. The annoyance of the running water. During a drought? Come on. And outside so the neighbors can see? The neighbors would definitely see. But why was he laughing? The simple joy of running through a backyard sprinkler. The mischievous playfulness of wasting water during a dry time. The feeling of the dead grass under naked food. The delicate crunch.
The tiny mysteries move her most. She slides across the linoleum like she imagines someone in a movie might.
Three simultaneous vertical planes of vision lay on the back door window. In the farthest are the roofs of other houses, variations on brown and gray. Not a spectrum. A patchwork, ad hoc like everything in America. One single white roof in the far distance pins the monotony together.
In the nearest is the reflection of her own face, which she sees but ignores. A limp shock of hair bifurcates her eyes and lips, snaking around her nose completely.
The familiar shape of her son, blurred by glass and sprinkler water, moves through the middle distance. His hands grab at something in the sky. His yellow shorts puff in a searching wind. She seems him move to avoid a splash.
Her eyes narrow. She squints to see. She thinks she sees me.
I’m the other figure, the same shape as her son but larger, moving in and out of his shadow. I might be a friend, but not one that she recognizes. Older. A teenager? Maybe a small adult, even. The spectrum of her emotions dulls and contracts into the disharmonious monotony of the distant rooftops.
She doesn’t exhale until she opens the door and sees her son scampering, alone, to twist the nozzle off.
“Sorry mom! I know, i know, i know…”
Yeah, pretty clever getting up so early and all, the neighbors will see you running around in that thing and throw a fit. I know you think you’re slick, but you can’t even get away with it with your own clueless mother…
“I said I know, I know, I know…”
He runs past her, grazing her forearm with his wet body.
And whatever I was - an illusion, a misapprehension, a cosmic figure dissolved under her conscious gaze - I’m out of sight as well. Totally gone.