Sol’s hands move in the darkness like moths, fluttering, leaving trails as he draws lines tracing the path of a meteor in his mind.
“Remember how we talked about that? About the rocks that fall from the sky?”
“Yes,” I say. “They’re called meteors.”
He nods as if he has suspected this all along.
“Why do they fall from the sky? If they hit our house will it catch on fire? And if our house catches on fire will all my toys burn? And if all my toys burn will I never be able to have those toys again?”
His rats slam against one another in the cage, the thin bars rattling. One of them squeaks. One of the wire ladders goes crashing to the ground.
“They always do that. They fight all night.” Sol tells me.
“Well, if you stick two boys in a cage it’s bound to happen.”
“Yes, well, sometimes Zaviera and I fight like that.” His fingers flutter in front of our faces, a shadow puppet show of conflict and resolution.
“Yes, you do.”
“But why do the rocks fall out of the sky?”
He sounds worried. I was hoping he had forgotten the question.
I pull my hands out from under the blankets and I begin to draw pictures in the air for his mind to follow. I draw the earth. I point to California and New Zealand. I send the planet into orbit. I become meteors crashing through the atmosphere. I draw a telephone and a scientist calling us, to alert us, so we have time to save the toys before our house explodes in flame.
Satisfied but still worried about his toys, he wants to know where we will live once our house catches on fire. I can only reassure him so much without being caught in a lie. After all, Sol remembers everything and if our house happened to catch on fire as the result of a meteor, his trust in me will be forever destroyed.
I always feel unprepared for these moments. Even as his small body curls up against mine and I am aware that this is a perfect moment, I want to slow things down. Hit pause, just to make sure I am doing this right.
I fall through the night sky of my child’s mind. I never know if my answers will light up his imagination or come crashing into his world and destroy something.
“Mommy?” His hands pause in the air. I hold my breath.
“Mommy? Can I go to Joshua’s house? He lives here,” a finger goes stabbing at some geographical point that only Sol can see. “And we live here.” He snakes his hands through the dark, creating roads, navigating round-abouts. He describes the landmarks, the shops, the ‘half circle’ we have to take to find our way home.
“It’s like the shape of a U,” he says. “We turn and we’re home.”
I nod, my hands folded on my chest. I am a woman who gets lost coming out of a public restroom but next to me, my child already has a map in his mind that spreads out over miles.
He knows how to find his way home.