Turned the torch lamp off when I heard the brushed- aluminum knob rattle, their sleep-shuffle through dim-lit hall to bed. Asleep yet couldn't sleep, my boy, halfway carried in his mom's struggling arms, feet grazing the parquet. Sees me from the doorway, standing at the desk, motionless, a thief, a bad dream, big man giant, looming, still as a painting, insanely dark. My son
won't move further. "What's wrong?" His mom asks. "Don't you want to sleep in our bed? Do you want to go back?" He's incoherent. He's half- conscious. He's had a nightmare. He's two. Doesn't want to come toward me. He wants to sleep with my wife. "It's me, it's me," I say, the air pushed past my lips so soft no one hears. The inflection exhaled flat on the vowel.
Step through the doorway, slip into the bathroom. The usher lets them in the theater. Sprawled and asleep before I shut the door. My throat hurts. At six, under anesthesia, I screamed, "Daddy! Daddy!" and through sterile masks and gowns, down the corridor, out, into the next world, they all, everyone, heard me.