211 Burial Lane
Gray cycles by and stops at the front yard where Jim and I live... at 211 Burial Lane. He and Nance live at 467. Their kid Carly is our Sophie's age and best friend; both of them now in middle school.
Since pre-school, our kids were inseparable, Jim and I would cover our ears as they imploded in a tangle of squeals and arms and legs and long, long hair in our living room. They'd run after the other in the front yards as if being chased by the devil, then hang on the other like vines. They kept this up all these years, sleepovers every weekend, and Carly feels like family.
Now, Carly has a boyfriend and the girls fight. No more horsing around.
Perched on the little ridge of chipped bricks I tell Gray about the new rat in our garage. He tells me about Carly's boyfriend and how weird it feels to see his daughter all head-over-heals. Also, he saw a thing on Animal Planet about rats and how intelligent and affectionate they are. He says I would have loved it.
Nance trapped and killed a baby rat recently in their garage he said. She was proud of herself but it made him sick.
Our garage has rat issues too. Rat intelligence is propaganda, according to Nance and to Jim, our rodent-phobic spouses, so Gray and I end up discussing this stuff in hushed tones as if we are guilty of worse.
"Romans didn't distinguish rats from mice and they were called Rattus Major or Rattus Minor,' he says, giggling.
I giggle too, because it is so crazy, and would like a pet rat and to name it Rattus Major. This may be something I will do when I am old and people can't get mad at me.
Nance is knitting the world's most amazing blanket for the new baby, she has shown it to everybody. I know what a resourceful, practical, knitting, baking, gardening (and rat-killing) woman Nance is.
Gray and Nance are no longer separated, as they had been for a few months last year. When Nance conceived at forty-two, I tried to come up with lots of funny stories about unexpected pregnancy.
I feel my face warming even with fog and summer chill because Gray is standing close smiling down, with his cinnamon cologne or whatever he wears, so I run to get something out of my car, yelling "The lint-roller is in the CAR, I need to find it. I have cat hair all over my life!"
"Ha ha, the lint roller in the CAR?" Gray says.
"Anyway, who cares!"
I am digging into the back of my car for the lint roller. I want him to ride away now and go back to his wife and the blanket she is making, and to give up on rats. Then another part of me says, Stay.
Jim, for about four years, has played computer games until 4AM and sleeps in the den, not our bedroom, because of his sleep-apnea snoring.
It is as if Gray knows and is trying to pull it out of me, suggesting little walks sometimes. I can always find a reason to stay at home and get things done, because I do not trust myself on a walk with that scent and his love of rats and his face.
Under piles of crap in the backseat of the car, I find the roller, and to demonstrate that I am not making it up, I hold the lint-roller up high above my head, as though I am the Statue of Liberty.