School's over. They visit me now on summer nights, these children I taught. They come one at a time into the haze of my dreams. They talk to me.
In the morning, they vanish.
The boy tells me he liked the taste of paint so much it molders his memories. That might not be a bad thing. He spent his early years in motels, waiting for a real home. The man he thought was his father turned out to be just mom's boyfriend. He told him that when he washed his hands of them both, and the new baby.
The girl longs for the day her parents, divorced many years, reunite. Life will go back to what it once was, she says. For now, it feels better to sleep.
Another girl is begging me to leave her alone so she can fail in peace. Why bother with learning? Her parents never did and they live in a $500,000 home.
The smallest child visits me most.
Maybe he likes the sound of the crickets or the cool summer breeze in my neighborhood. My house is still. His never is.
His father left his mother and him and four other brothers. The youngest is slow. That's why his father left. A month ago, a drunk driver hit his father's sedan on the New Jersey Turnpike. On Father's Day, his mother will load him and his brothers in the van to visit his grave on Staten Island.
Somehow, he tells me, he feels closer to his father now than he ever did.