It is late. Everyone went to bed a long time ago, and I am two hours into one beer. The house is dark, save a scattering of candles and the glow of outdoor holiday lighting spread upon windowpanes that will never frost. I am wide awake, thoughts and sugar dancing in my head. My uncertainty even more so.
It is December, and I am stuck between a Netflix and a hard place, each episode blending into the next like so many years, skipping intros and pausing just to pee. Each new chapter the last before bed, another deadline declined beneath the comfort of just sitting still.
Everything is heavier in this moment, weighed and tethered with tangled chain, ghosts of decision, specters of doubt, they visit thrice upon me nightly, give or take. Sleep, always the surrender in the distance, stays a promise yet to keep.
The evening had been filled with the stuff of evenings. I made a meal. The kids had homework. There was a basketball game. Neighbors lit candles. Neighbors trimmed trees. People smiled on the sidewalk and made small talk about weather and dogs. Someone saw a shooting star and pinned their wish accordingly.
And then it faded as it always does. First my wife, to bed far too early, eventually followed by the boys, pajamas from the dryer and nothing dental in the flossing. The lights go out, and I yell down the hall about assorted electronics. I won’t speak again till morning, but I’ll wonder loudly, an echo in the oft-hollowed husk of what appears to be adulthood.
I don’t know what I expected.
It is early. I am the only one awake, starting coffee and our soundtrack. The house is stretching with the glow of dawn. There is breakfast to make, lunches to pack and bags filled with books as heavy as bricks.
The boys sleep in bunk beds and I wake them by tier. The oldest is covered in felines, and I scratch behind his ears as if he is one of them. Then I pet the cats, too, lest the curiosity kills them.
His brother takes a bit more prodding, and I am happy to provide it. We both know this, and perhaps it is only an act, but I snuggle against him with a song on my lips and a tickle in my arms as if it were absolutely necessary. More often than not, this is the best part of my day. It lasts until the kettle calls me from the kitchen.
The morning is filled with the stuff of mornings. The boys off to school, my wife to work, and all the while I’m a draft in with a call at the top of the hour. My pants are permanently on standby, and I haven’t shaved since last Thursday.
Sunlight brings lists and responsibility, accounts and accountability, the tinkering of edits and everyone wanting something. Is this what I imaged grown to be, but with more laughter and less hair?
That is a trade I am willing to make.
So I will do it again tomorrow, then again after that, growing older, loving harder, blurring answers with memories and making it up as I go, well past the twilight.
I don’t know what I expected from adulthood, but this feels about right.