Today I sat on the platform swing while H pushed me. I do this kind of thing often when H is playing with Kathryn or Cameron. I crawl through tunnels and go down slides and run up ramps. I let pinto beans stream through my fingers and press my hands into globs of shaving cream. I do these things to model for H and as an invitation to play, especially if he seems hesitant about jumping right in. So today I am on a platform swing, and instead of joining me, H has decided to push. Cameron explains that this kind of swing might be harder for him to embrace than the swings he loves at the park, because it does not help him locate himself in space in quite the same way. She is happy to see him engaged with it in any way, so I sit while H pushes.
I am lulled by the gentle rocking and lose myself looking out the mat room windows. Seattle spills south in front of me, and I know if it were clear I would see Mt. Rainier hovering in the distance. Instead of one of my spiritual anchors, I find myself admiring the deep, velvet red of a brick building several blocks away. It looks so dusty soft I imagine that chalky red earth would stain my fingers if I were to touch it. A midnight blue band, just as rich and velvety, circles the top of the building. It is strikingly beautiful, and it happens to be the apartment building H’s father and I lived in when we first moved to Seattle.
H pushes me, and time folds on itself, thirteen years ago merging seamlessly with today. We have just moved into that apartment building, a block from the only level one trauma hospital in Washington State, a hospital committed to caring for the most vulnerable and adrift in Seattle and that serves as the regional trauma referral center for three nearby states. It is not a quiet neighborhood, often chaotic and noisy with ambulance sirens, helicopter landings, and street corner arguments outside our barred garden level windows. I have been in the car for the past thirty minutes circling the area in search of a parking spot at the end of the work day. This is a common occurrence. H’s father does not like it here, he often seems cross, but there are things I find so charming about the apartment that the noise and lack of sunlight and other negatives are not deal breakers for me. I love it for its early 1900s grace: The large square black and white tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, the wood floors throughout, the old porcelain basin bathtub with sides tall enough for a proper bath, the bathroom large enough that it requires extra furniture, the cupboard with openings to the hallway (now sealed) and the apartment that I have been told once served as a place for groceries to be delivered to residents. Here we are, 3,000 miles from where we first met, our relationship still in its infancy, charting a new course together in a new city.
Step to one side of the seam that has patched 13 years ago to today, and I am with H’s father. Step to the other, and I am not. I am moving to Seattle with him, finding this first place to live. I am moving out of the last apartment we will ever share. I am taking a temporary job at a bankruptcy law firm and looking for something I hope will help me uncover my soul’s work. I am drawing and painting and making objects with my hands and teaching children to see and to believe they can accurately record their observations with line and form and color. I believe that H’s father can be my person for today and every today that follows. I know he is not. We are blissfully giddy with new love. We are not. I wonder if we can be happy together. We are not. We are happy together. We are not. It feels strange to experience time twisting on itself like an Ourobros, to be sitting in both the past and the present simultaneously, to feel viscerally the fluidity and non-linearity of time.
Something makes the past recede, and I am solidly back in the mat room with H again. He is putting friends – frog and turtle beanbags and a small square purple beanbag he is calling chicken sausage – on the platform swing with me. He is so dear, his sweet demeanor and imagination a delight to witness as he plays around me.
I reflect on 13 years ago as H continues to push me on the platform swing. What if I had made different choices all those years ago? What if I had not moved across the country with H’s father? What if I had, but not rekindled our relationship after leaving him early on? What if we had reunited, but not gone on to marry? What if I had married, instead, someone who would not end up wanting a divorce? Would I have a child if I had married someone else? Maybe yes, but I would not have H. And this is where this line of thought, no matter how often I run through the mental gymnastics, ends. I would not have H.
No other outcome is palatable, so it seems that everything that has happened up to this point needs to have been. This is where I sit. I am waiting for something to clear, for some debris to dislodge so that I can flow past this point, no longer wanting so much to think my way out of the pain of the divorce. It is a process. I have time. And in the meantime, there is H and the platform swing. The present moment, no matter the pain it has taken to arrive here, feels good.