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The Lion

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“It’s a beautiful night for sleeping,” you remark.
I say: “You always say that,” but inside I like it.
“I don’t always say that—only when it is.”
“Is what?” I ask.
“When it is a beautiful night for sleeping.”
“Oh.”
You walk over to my window and it creaks as you open it. The light from across the street makes the shadows of branches look like gnarled hands grasping your face.
You never let people push you around.
“Remember when you were little and you told me your tummy hurt so much there must be a lion inside?” you ask, smiling slightly.
“Yeah,” I answer. “Why do you always talk about that? I’m not little anymore.”
I don’t tell you that sometimes I still feel like I’m little and there’s a lion in my tummy. And that the lion is tearing my insides apart with its claws to make sure I really feel it there. As if the right decision is a death sentence, and the wrong decision is withdrawal.
“I’m sorry. I don’t talk about it so much. But I often think of it.” You walk back over to my bed, and the floorboards creak.
Everything creaks these days.
You rest your callused hand gently on my back. I hold my breath to keep from breathing the funny way that you do when there’s a lump in your throat. “People always tell me they wish they could be young,” you whisper. “I always tell them I’d never want to grow up again.”
You kiss the side of my forehead—you say I give sweet kisses—“Love you,” you say, and enter the lit hallway, closing the door just enough (three-quarters of the way) behind you.
Every night you make me tea and comment on how pretty it looks with steam coming off of it, and when it goes down it warms me up the way I feel warm when you hug me with just the right amount of tightness.
And I want to call to you to come back, but my voice apparently isn’t there anymore, so all I get are the tear stains on my pillow:
I love you too, Daddy.



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