At the Gate

The first thing I do with my first paycheck is buy plane tickets for Daniel.

I buy Sugarsnaps and Froot Loops, and cornflakes in case he has grown up more than I'm expecting. I throw out the sweatshirt I've been making Tano use as a pillow and I buy Daniel the kind of pillow that will hold his head like feather-soft fingers.

I leave work early on Friday and I change into overalls on the freeway.

Daniel is wearing jeans. I've never seen him in jeans —only sweat pants. "They're GAP," he tells me. He's listening to hard-core street rap on his portable CD player. I have my driver's license handy to prove that I'm his guardian, but no one is asking.

He carried everything on board. He says, "Mom wanted to pack about thirty more suitcases but I told her baggage claim would take too much time out of the weekend."

"I'm so happy to see you," I say, and I get down on my knees so I can wrap him in my arms, but not for more than a second.

I'm so proud that I have a car to drive him in. "It's nice," he says.

When I show him our apartment he says, "You don't have very much furniture."

I ask him about school, about baseball, about Nintendo.

He's a teenager now, so I try deeper questions. I ask about Mom and Dad.

He says, "They're better than they were when they were married."

I ask if it's weird that I am living with Tano.

He says, "No. It's interesting."

We eat dinner, we play volleyball, we meet Tano at the movies.

On Daniel's last night I make a special dinner for me and Tano and Daniel, but Daniel just wants Froot Loops. "Mom won't buy them for me," he says.

Nothing happens that we will still be talking about twenty-five years from now; I worry that I have nothing to hold on to.

I hug Daniel hard before he leaves on the plane.

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