Isaac has this thing where he feels like he needs my company any time he has to pee between the hours of midnight and 6 A.M.
Which is inconvenient, because every once in a while I try to sleep between those hours. This morning I was coming out of the bathroom a little before six, freshly shaved and showered, wearing my navy business suit on account of needing to bring some smack today, and there he stood in the bedroom doorway, like a little haunt. Frankly, he scared the bejeesus out of me, but when you're wearing your smack-bringing business suit, you have to play it cool.
So I picked him up, and he pressed his warm chubby cheek against my neck, and I carried him to his bathroom. There we enacted our usual routine, in which he leans back against my legs and tries to fall asleep in mid-pee, and I try to keep him pointed at the interior part of the toilet.
I don't care how nice your suit is, there's just no looking cool in that situation.
Afterward, I carried him to his bed, and tucked him back in. He told me goodnight, even though daylight was beginning to whisper its arrival. Little stinker.
Every night before I put him to bed, I fuss at him not to wake me up. But part of me, the part that has given up on foolish ideals like world peace and a good night's sleep, is glad that he searches me out in the dark hours. I doubt he even remembers these times, but I like to think that some part of him will remember that when he needed me in the darkness, I was there.
"Upward Over the Mountain," by Iron & Wine (Sam Beam), from his album "The Creek Drank the Cradle." You can enjoy a slightly different live version below. Ignore the annoying girl's laugh at the beginning, which isn't actually part of the song:
"We know that we are less than our names: we are our names minus whatever belongs in the empty place. And the question a man is apt to ask in the darkest moments of his life is what salvation can there be, from anywhere, for the man who is less than his name."
I had business in Las Vegas the last couple of days. Las Vegas is probably my least favorite city. The conference I attended was lodged in Harrah's, which meant that no matter where I wanted to go, I had to wade through rows and rows of slot machines, colonies of Keno players, and other assemblages of people who have come from all walks of life to have a good time.
The thing was, not a one of them was smiling. There were young couples, groups of gawking frat boys, middle-aged Italians, elderly singles being pushed by their offspring in wheelchairs, or perhaps hobbling along on walkers. Men and women of all ages, manners of dress, languages and dialects. All had flown to Las Vegas, the sleepless city, the city that knows how to keep a secret, the city of lights and fortunes, and every blessed one of them looked like someone awaiting execution.
Perhaps people have more fun at the shows and restaurants. But you can get better versions of each in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, heck, even Atlanta. No, what sets Las Vegas apart is the gambling, and perhaps the prostitution. Millions of people visit every year, and I wonder, does a one of them find what he is looking for?
Do they even know what they seek?
Which I suppose can be asked of us all, not just the poor souls sitting numbly in front of those cold machines with the pretty, pretty lights. The answer, I think, is that we are seeking something that will fill the great Empty.
It runs right through the middle of you, this emptiness, and though every good writer has tried to describe it, and though we all know it is there, we are most of us terribly afraid to think about it, which is perhaps why a place like Las Vegas can exist at all.