When you sit on the bed, Indian-style, with a hand in your little girl’s curls and a hand on a can of Diet Coke, and you are just watching the badness on the TV, the cars floating down the dark Manhattan streets/the reporter out standing in the riverish road, the stiff winds at her back/the darkened skyline of a darkened city in a distant storm far away, you can’t just kind of close your eyes and imagine what it’s like to be in it, huh?
You can hold out a peacock feather and tickle the screen and pretend that you’re teasing death, because let’s face it, you’re not.
No one knows what certain fear tastes like unless you are chewing on it yourself, for real. The metallic dank bite back of absolute horror, you can’t just dream that stuff up.
And for the most part, you wouldn’t ever want to either.
Me and Violet watched the hurricane make landfall on the television and of course, she wasn’t able to really understand what was all going on. She’s three, almost four. So, I gave her my Three/Almost Four Explanation.
“The ocean is angry, kiddo.”
“Why?” she wanted to know.
“I dunno,” I told her. “Probably, it’s bored.”
And yeah, that was pretty much a lazy answer. Certainly it was scientifically lacking, me skipping all the parts about the rare atmospheric Molotov that was being chucked straight through the open window of American East Coastness. But what are you gonna do? Sometimes with kids, you need to break it down, you know?
So, without thinking about it I told her the ocean was angry. Boom. Cased closed.
Later, around three in the morning, she was having a short but harsh coughing fit beside me. I had her in my bed because there are tall pines out beside the driveway and if one ever caught the right burst of devilish wind there’s a good chance it would slide down through the air and land not far from where she dreams and sips her water and sleeps upon three or four Clifford The Big Red Dog books at a clip.
And last night, they said, the winds will kick your ass. Don’t believe us and you could get messed up, they said. Take precautions, they said.
Sleep in here, I said. Her mommy scooped her up in her arms, when she fell asleep, and laid her down with me.
For a while, we crashed. I didn’t hear any winds battering the house or anything, though. I was edgy and agitated, lying there in the dark, the street light’s lame smear of night paint dripping down the wall across from our heads. I kept waiting for something to happen.
She was hacking and I was hating it. I rubbed her back a little; I didn’t know what else to do.
Then, she was there, out of nowhere.
“Daddy?” she mumbled, half into her pillow.
“Yeah, baby?” I said. I was surprised to hear the fragile tone of her late night voice.
“We saw the ocean on the TV and it was sad and it didn’t want to stay with the fish and with the mermaids and with the kids and it was angry, huh?”
I smiled in the darkness. I smiled at the darkness. I hoped the ocean could hear her now, in that moment; that it would be embarrassed and ashamed. Then I told her what I knew.
“Yep, he’s angry, baby. But he knows you’re watching him now…like Santa Clause is watching you, you know?”
“And besides, the ocean has to be pretty tired too; he knows that it’s time to start heading home,” I said. “Okay?”
I squeezed her tiny fist. Three pumps. I. Love. You.
But by the time I did the third one I already knew what was up, that she was asleep again; her short breaths rising up through the dark beside me, the air barely whistling out through her nose just a few inches from my ear.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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