My children walk away from me down our narrow road into the green-gold haze, toward the ice cream promised from the market around the corner. The sky overhead is white, silver and dark gray along the margins, a thunderstorm looming. The air is absolutely still, like the afternoon is holding its breath. A neighbor mows his lawn; I smell cut grass and ozone. Suddenly the sun peeks through and for a moment everything dazzles. My twelve-year-old daughter takes her six-year-old sister´s hand and they begin to skip. I stare after them. They are far enough away I can no longer hear their laughing, their sandals skittering along the twigs on the pavement. I realize I am standing alone in the middle of the street, hand resting on my chest. All of it – the afternoon, the storm, the children – is so beautiful my heart aches. I have forgotten to breathe.
I read an essay in the New York Times this morning, Modern Love, written by a woman who was coping with her husband´s midlife crisis in an atypical way. Having resolved that she was responsible for her own happiness, and the happiness of her children, and nothing else, she waited her husband out. She waited for him to come around, and surprisingly enough, over the course of the summer, he did. I admired her resolve. I thought her approach was both brilliant and possibly unmasterable. I admired the way she staked off her territory – what she owned, and the vast tracts that were somebody else´s responsibility. I pray for that kind of clarity on a daily basis.
How much of our burden belongs to us? What if we refuse to pick up anything other than the bits that are immutably ours? I peel a mango and slice it thin on a white bone china plate. Mango and warm sticky rice, sitting on the porch, watching the storm clouds dance high above my head. The cicadas are finally here.