PHILIPMILLER

The Herald - Arts - - Arts -

It was night, and tears ran down his cheeks and into his ears.

He cried with­out noise, with­out shak­ing, his mouth open, star­ing at the white blank ceil­ing, his warm lover sleep­ing be­side him.

The alarm clock glowed red. Out­side, chill rain fell on the cold stones of Christ­mas. He care­fully moved his fin­gers to wipe his face.

He re­mem­bered the sea­sons of his fa­ther’s hands: for years he held that olive skin, softly wrin­kled like crepe pa­per, crum­pled over sore bones. Then, years later, they were shak­ing and tired, pale and fren­zied around his dy­ing, dazed face. Then blue, pushed into a clasp on his stone-dead chest, his eyes two vi­o­let mar­bles, his fore­head on the slab, heavy as a rock, laugh­lines frozen, wrin­kles fixed and deep­ened.

Wrin­kles around those black eyes, like quiv­er­ing wings, they used to curl and tighten when he laughed, as they played around the open fire, open­ing presents in the glow of coal and TV, even as he brushed ripped wrap­ping pa­per away from the grate and picked up and held his son, light as dust.

He had al­ways loved this time, its guilt­less al­lowances. The gut­ter­ing hot wax and coil­ing breath in the si­lences of the mid­night Mass, and, on their way home, warm­ing his son’s fin­gers with his huge hands, pass­ing his heat from one heart to the other.

Now he lay in bed with raw eyes, newly opened, and his ears were wet. He lifted his legs from the bed to the cold wood floor and his lover shifted and groaned. The light was ris­ing.

He reached for the phone and, un­blink­ing, di­alled his num­ber. He knew those chimes would not be an­swered now. But they still rang and rang in his hand, as the bloody day be­gan.

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