For Mike Fay
Michael sat on the edge of his bed beside his father. His legs hung over the side of the bed; they could not yet touch the floor. The window in the room was open, and through it came the breeze that was moving the white curtains. Michael held his model airplane in his hands. Earlier, it had been light out and Michael had played in his backyard beneath the trees with his model airplane, but now it was night and dark out, and it was only by the feeling of the breeze that was coming into the room through the open window and moving the white curtains that he knew it was still summer.
“Michael,” his father said. “Do you understand what I’m telling you? I’m telling you I’m going away, and I don’t know when I’ll be back. Do you understand this?”
Michael turned toward the window. He held his model airplane and watched the curtains move in the breeze. He looked at his airplane. The plane was light and blue.
“Michael,” his father said. His father reached over and took his blue model airplane from his hands. “Listen to me. I’m telling you something. I’m telling you I’m going away, and I don’t know if I’ll be back.”
Michael looked at his blue model airplane that was now in his father’s hands. His father had large hands.
“Michael,” his father said. “Listen to me. I’m telling you I’m going away. Do you understand?”
Outside the breeze blew and came into the room, lifting the curtains toward the ceiling. Michael followed their ascent. In his own hands, he felt the weight and absence of his blue model airplane. It felt heavy, light.
“Look at me,” his father said. “It’s important you understand what I’m telling you. I’m telling you I’m going away, and I don’t know if I’m coming back this time. I’m not going back. Do you understand this?”
The breeze that had been coming into the room through the open window passed away, and the curtains fell to the floor.
His father put his free hand on Michael’s shoulder. “Look at me. Look at me, now.”
Michael turned from the window and looked up at his father. His father’s face was carved with deep lines. He felt the weight of his father’s hand on his shoulder. It felt hard, heavy.
“I’m not going back. Prison is no place for a man. A man has nothing if he doesn’t have his freedom. Do you understand this, Michael?”
Michael was looking at his father though he could not be certain who he was looking at.
“All right,” his father said. “All right.” He took his empty hand off his shoulder and got up from the bed. Immediately, the bed rose and grew lighter. Michael felt himself rise and grow lighter with it. His father put his blue model airplane on the nightstand. “Get into bed. It’s getting late.”
Michael lifted his legs from over the edge and got into bed. He placed his head on the pillow and lay still as his father reached down and pulled the sheet up over him. The sheets felt soft and cold and his body so small beneath his father’s.
“Go to sleep now,” his father said. “It’s late.”
His father turned off the light on the nightstand, but some light still came into the room through the open window and through the doorway from the hall.
“Close your eyes.”
Michael closed his eyes.
“Go to sleep, Michael. Go to sleep, now, son.” His father reached down and put his hand on Michael’s forehead. He brushed the hair back from his eyes to his temples. “We’ll talk more in the morning.” He turned and walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.
In the dark and silence, Michael opened his eyes. He looked up at the ceiling. He looked at his model airplane on the nightstand beside his bed. He looked around the room. It was full of dark. He touched his temple. He pictured how earlier it had been light out and how he had played in his backyard beneath the trees, and how now it was night and dark out, and he almost could not picture what it had been like to be light outside and to play beneath the trees. He pictured the bright blue of an airplane in flight against the soft blue of a summer sky. When he looked back from the window to his model airplane, Michael could no longer tell what color it was.
After awhile, Michael stopped picturing and tried to fall asleep. When sleep wouldn’t come, he gave up and just lay in his bed in the dark, looking up at the ceiling and listening to the sound of the curtains as they moved in the breeze that was once again coming into the room through the open window.