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Three Six Five

I was going to go running tonight when I got home from work, but my wife and kids were sitting out on the porch starting their dinner, and that was just enough to push my lazy self into a chair to settle down with them. That and the fact that if I went running, it would be time for the kids to go to bed by the time I came back and showered. Meaning I’d have barely seen them all day.

That happens sometimes. I’m not going to fool anyone into thinking I can get up early enough to go running in the morning before I go to work, so if I want to maintain even the slightest pretense of trying to stay under 195 pounds, I’ve got to go running at night. And that’s basically a whole day of not seeing the kids. Which is collateral damage, but sometimes it happens. The burden of being a fatass.

But I didn’t want it to happen tonight.

The days bleed into weeks and most of the time we can’t wait for whatever moment we’re in to pass, to be gone and tick over onto the next moment… as if there’s some Great Thing out there just over the horizon that would arrive if only this stupid Present we occupy would get out of the way.

Sit down. Look around. Appreciate the smile you see, the beginning of a laugh. Take note of the tactile things: the squirmy toddler as you throw him into the air, or the smack of you high-fiving your oldest child.  Close your eyes… sniff the faint scent of soap on your wife’s neck. The summer evening. Steaks on the grill.

I remember the smell of the sea at Old Orchard Beach as Danny and I stood on the cold sand one June evening many years ago, looking out into the foggy blackness that was the Gulf of Maine. Taking it in, I was astonished that plowing through that kind of unknown was part of his job description. He was in the Coast Guard, and he had told me of stories of sneaking up on unsuspecting drug-running boats as he skimmed across the night water in some kind of motorized stealth dinghy, adrenaline pumping, his hand ready to draw his weapon.

Behind us were the gaudy lights of OOB’s Strip, to our left was the Pier. Danny and I had been bar-hopping, taking full advantage of the 75-cent drafts and quarter-per-play games of pool that were so common among the OOB dives. It was the first summer we were 21, and we were Butch and Sundance. Luke and Han.

I remember the cold sand under my feet once we walked out onto the beach. I had taken off my socks and shoes. The water lured us away from the promise of drinking; there was something about the infinite and dark vastness of the ocean that spoke louder than beer.

The space Dan occupied, it was like that of a brother. This simplest of things. He was at my shoulder, and we talked about a lot, squinting out into that hazy space. Looking down at my toes hidden in the sand; I had burrowed them in there. Dan next to me with his slightly hunched posture, that half-smile he often wore, as if the very idea of life amused him. The short sentences. His laugh. He loved to laugh.

My daughter cut in, asking me, “What are you thinking?”

I looked at her. I was sitting on my deck, the light in the sky fading. I took her in my arms, the scent of her shampoo in my nostrils.

“I was thinking of your Uncle Dan.”