What’s a good day?
Is it when he wakes up calmly and takes the pills she leaves out for him?
Is it when he waits for her, if he gets up before her?
Is it when he doesn’t break a dish in frustration, when his hands don’t work the way he wants them to?
Is it when he reads the papers, watches the news, and can string together a conversation with her that doesn’t blank out in the middle?
Is it a good day when his eyes are clear and focused?
She’ll take those days; she’ll take those days if she can get them. She counts herself lucky when his hand briefly cups her cheek, tender, fever warm. He says nothing, but the gesture, coupled with the way he flicks that one long green braid back out of her face, eases her heart.
The coat was thrown away; she bought him a new one. The cat earned a place of honor in his closet, where she would lovingly deposit hair balls and dead mice in his shoes.
That’s for wrapping me up in your coat and imprisoning me where I can’t get to the pigeons, human.
But she also curls up in his lap and doesn’t dig her nails in, much.
That day, she found herself smiling, caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror — tired but recognizable, still. Mostly.
They listened to his albums and they watched the news and read the papers. He was quiet, like he often was, and she caught him watching her carefully now and then, so she changed her movements to be as transparent as possible, always in his view, always slow enough that there was no worry for surprises, for any tricks. She was light and casual, snarky, easy.
He was quiet and angry, but only the angry he always had been, a slow burning angry against a world that had taken so much from them, from everyone. The man who fought the injustices with calculated strikes and an unstoppable determination and a soul-wrenching need to do what needed doing.
She felt like she did in the first few weeks of knowing him, not quite tentative, not quite on eggshells, but testing boundaries, making certain of the certainties.
I do this.
You do that.
I move like this.
You move like that.
They fell into the rhythm they fell into, and by sunset, she was exhausted and exhilarated as Jethro Tull blared in the background, and he chopped onions for dinner, scowling at the cat, but feeding it pieces of cheese when he thought she wasn’t looking.
He caught her staring, saw the tears in her navy eyes and his crooked grin twisted that tiny fraction more, the too-blue of his eyes focusing on her, bright and promising. “Hey,” he said, crossing to her.
“Hey,” she laughed, blushing, wiping her eyes. “Sorry, I–”
“Don’t be sorry,” he said, shaking his head. He reached to put an arm around her, and nodded to the window out to the fire escape from the kitchen, saying, “That one’s unlocked some nights.”
“Oh?” She said, chuckling, wiping her eyes, wondering what the joke was. He was probably right; she probably forgot now and then. It was good he could remember the details.
“You’re a good kid,” he said, and her heart sank, suddenly and without warning. She watched his face, but felt a drowning, wrenching loss to realize the difference wasn’t easy to see anymore. Those too-blue eyes looked just as clear as they had all day.
And it had been such a good day, hadn’t it?
The low rasp of his voice was so him that it burned as he whispered to her, “I’ll cover your exit when y’run. Keep ’em from following.”