Izzen loves celebrations. In his eight year-old mind he already realizes that when people congregate to rejoice, for whatever reason, they do so with open minds and hearts. More open, he would say. Izzen doesn’t think this way, he only feels this way, and feeling is everything to Izzen.
If his sister, Theadra, drops her school books loud upon her desk, he knows she needs peanut butter on apple slices. His fingers work quickly to peel and slice and coat each wedge with just a lip of Skippy’s—never too much, too much would ruin the taste of the apple.
When his mother rubs her head that way in the morning, having risen too late to help with school lunch, he knows the location of aspirin and how to microwave chamomile tea.
Izzen wakes frantic at night with dreams of being tied or trapped, sweat soaking his pajamas. His father, as a stone presence in his mind and nightmares, looms unknowable. Izzen remains baffled by the man. Izzen doesn’t think this—he feels it. Try as he might, no effort, large or small, has ever made his father smile; to have him laugh would be a miracle.
Monday morning, a time when Izzen must be at his most aware, will arrive in a few hours. This Monday stands out in his mind. He will be turning nine.
The dream of confinement snaps him awake. His father sits sideways on his bed, his rigid grip holding Izzen as he struggles for release in the dream. Izzen freezes as reality invades his perception.
No lights are on in the house and the sun is still buried beneath the horizon. Izzen can hear the shuffle of his father’s overcoat and smell the sandlewood of the hall closet. He relaxes and his father’s grip releases.
Izzen, his father tells him, I must leave you for a time. I don’t know when I’ll return. There are spirits in my head that will not stay quiet. I want you to know that for every time you tried to be kind to me, I remember. I smiled inside. You try so hard. That’s why I’m telling this to you and not your sister or mother. Stay strong, Izzy. Stay open to what your heart tells you.
Izzen felt his father’s presence lift and leave. The sound of the front door clicking shut finalized his thoughts… He would be nine today. It should be his day. Yet somehow he knew, he felt, that it would be he who must bear gifts to others.