He grew like a weed,
sprouting and towering above me,
but in my eyes,
he was still five years old,
jam under his fingernails,
reaching up with a smile and sticky hands.
When he was three, he struggled to speak,
but by thirteen, I couldn’t shut him up,
babbling about the football as dinner falls from his excited mouth,
a stern stare from his father would restore the memory of his manners.
I remember him that way,
or with sticky fingers and a sweet little smile,
even as the handsome man who used to be a boy,
blushing as I rub the remains of his breakfast from his chin,
shooing me from his side as the other uniformed sons step into line with him.
The house was haunted by the eternal emptiness.
I would stare into the cupboard,
my stare, stuck on the strawberry jam,
the last one in town,
a rare, secret treat that I would not allow to be eaten,
until my boy was back home.
It still stares back at me,
with that same, sticky, sweet smile as the small boy who became a man,
A man who couldn’t stay.
I stay up late,
after a long day of listening to the neighbourhood kids,
wondering if their mothers know how lucky they are to never have a moment’s peace.
Everything is quiet as I switch on the television,
blinking back the burst of light it lets into the room,
and the football highlights start.
I’ve made him a jam sandwich.
It’s on the kitchen table,
with all the other ones.