it's 7:47 monday evening and i'm
standing behind the registration table,
waiting to welcome volunteers as they come in
to pack food for starving children around the world
during our last shift of the night.
i switch my weight to my other leg
and smile, but it is my old worn out smile,
not my nice happy one
and i hope that no one notices.
i know that this is amazing work,
but it is still my job and today i'm tired
and my feet hurt
and the knot between my shoulder blades is
connected to the pain behind my forehead.
"which group are you gentlemen with?"
i direct my question toward a father and son.
the dad responds, "cub scouts."
and i point them to the clipboard in front of me.
"first and last name, please," i say.
i roll my shoulders, trying to loosen up the
big lumped frogs that sit there,
and crack my neck from side to side.
the little boy picks up a pen and begins
i see those letters in a line and start to cry
right there behind the table.
i look at the boy.
he has white skin, brown freckles and brown hair.
i look at his scribbled name on the paper
and picture my lucas writing it.
in my mind i wink at him
and he grins and whispers,
but not loud enough for the other troops to hear.
he has brown skin, no freckles, and black hair.
"thanks for coming tonight," i say,
but my voice cracks and the father looks at me,
surprised. i clear my throat and pretend the sound
was just a sneeze that didn't quite make it or a cough
that i couldn't all the way suppress
but i know my eyes are red because of the
way they tingle in my head.
i stand there as the volunteers take their seats
and another leader begins to talk
but i don't hear their voice because in my mind
i'm imagining, again, how different it would be
if lucas could just have made it through that one night,
and went to the hospital the morning of october 4,
and how maybe someone could have helped him.
i wonder how it would have felt to walk through
the doors of that home in africa
and pick lucas up,
put my face in his neck and tell him,
"see, i told you i'd be back for you."
i think of what i would have lost and gained.
your days here were so few,
and mine seem to be numbered long
but because of this way you live
inside of me, always shifting
and shifting inside my mind in heart,
i don't forget you
and i carry you here,
your days are numbered long, too.