A tableau of my future

There’s a woman my age staying in our AirBnB this weekend, in town to visit her son at college. I can see them sitting on the deck in the sun. She’s handed him a plastic grocery bag, crumpled from her luggage, and he’s pulling things out one at a time: a Toblerone bar, Pocky sticks, a new toothbrush.

She’s leaning toward him and I can feel all the hunger in her, all the missing and the pride and the nostalgia for when he used to fit cozy in her lap and twine her hair around his fingers while she read to him.

He’s smiling in that slightly-pained way, like when you want to humor your mom because you love her but you stopped liking Toblerone when you were 15, and you’re already thinking about that party you want to go to tonight and wondering how soon you can duck out of dinner, but you know she stood in the grocery store back home thinking about what to buy to show she loves you and the whole thing feels a vaguely sticky and pathetic because you can’t know—yet—what it’s like to love someone the way she loves you.

And I’m sobbing at my desk, watching this tableau, because my heart has already exploded with loneliness in anticipation of the day that this is me, and that is my son.

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