I must look like death as I stagger back into our home.
I tried to freshen up en route, but there’s only so much one can do in the back of an armored car. Jason stares at me, frozen. The game he was projecting shuts down abruptly.
“I’m all right. I’m just tired,” I say pointlessly.
“I read something the other day,” he says, sitting there on our sofa, looking so small.
Non sequitur, but all right. “Oh?”
“I read where someone said – in Ghazal form – that deciding to be with loved ones was more important than doing things for them.”
Ghazal, my neural link informs me, is a form of poetry popularized in Persia invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions. “Oh?”
“Yes.” He sets his jaw, barely squared from entering puberty, still without shadow. “It made the point over fifteen stanzas that loved ones are better off just spending time together than spending time apart, trying to give each other things that can’t be quantified.”
Lovely. Now even his education is working against me. “Maybe for those who don’t think of the future.” I run my hand through my hair – it’s gotten far too long – and try, try so hard, to think of how to answer this. “Some of us consider your future after we’re gone, rather than just taking joy in the time you spend with us. It’s a selfishness thing, Jay.”
His lips tighten until the color leaves them.
I’m trying to be gentle. I’m so tired. I’ve been lied to by at least one trusted party – but this is my son, and none of that is his fault. “I know it’s hard, that I’m gone. This job is… important. More important than I even knew when I took it. Jason – I love you. I want you to thrive. Everything I do, I do for you. You know that, don’t you?”
And I can already feel his therapist telling me I did this wrong, that I focused on future feelings for a Jason who might not even be instead of the one who already is, but I must hold to the truth that if I do not do this, there will be no future Jason because he and all humanity will be dead.
And somehow, the Twins are part of that.
Jason rubs his face with his palms, reddening his brown skin, and for a moment, just one moment, he seems even younger yet.
So tiny. So fragile.
Muffled behind his hands. “I know, dad.”
“If I could spare you any pain, I would.” And this is so much more honest than I want to be with a twelve-year-old, but here we are. “I would take every uncomfortable misery this world has on myself to keep you clear of it, if I could. But I can’t. All I can do is try to make the coming blows easier.”
Then comes silence, thick in the awfulness of it.
“I know,” he says at last.
“I have no intention of dying and leaving you,” I say more cheerfully than I feel. “It could happen any time, anyway. What I’m doing has no bearing on this damned curse.”
He says nothing.
I rub my eyes with the heels of my hands. Why don’t words do what we want? Why must they always miss, like arrows bouncing off stone walls?
“It’s okay, dad,” he whispers, like forgiveness. “It’s okay. I get it. Do what you have to do. I love you, too.”
He says those words much less the older he gets. I treasure them when they do come.
I am so tired I could cry, but no rest for me just yet. No calling Tom, either. First, I need to spend time with my son. I think, tonight, we’re both more aware than ever that mine is limited.