We arrived at camp a few hours before the week started, in time to get Tre checked in and spend a few hours wandering around aimlessly. Mom, who had come along to help during the million-hour drive through the night, bought the boys treats at the snack shop. We huddled in the shade and watched the concert given by the previous week's campers. Tre had a blue pixie stick and he offered some to his brothers. Raphael tipped his face back and opened his mouth, and Tre poured a tiny stream of blue sugar dust onto his tongue. A breeze caught some of it and swirled it around his face, leaving a streak of blue along his cheek. They laughed together, Raphael snorting as he clamped his mouth shut around his candy, Tre looking down at him with indulgent fondness.
A few minutes later I asked Raphael to pass me the water bottle, and he did. As I drank from it, I tasted the tart sweetness of the pixie stick on its mouth. I licked the taste from my lips.
Remember this moment, I told myself, although I didn't know why.
When I hugged Tre the last time, he shook inside my arms, and he laid his head down on my shoulder. Heat radiated off his skin as the realization of what was happening washed over both of us. The laughing bravado he'd worn all day was gone. I said goodbye and we drove away. Max twisted around in his seat to watch Tre as long as he could, Raphael glared at his knees, Mom drove, and I wept behind my sunglasses, trying to act like I could stand this even a little bit.
That night we camped nearby, although my cell phone didn't get any service where we were, so it might as well have been a different continent, not fifteen miles up the road. We had a campfire, of course, and as we all huddled around it, Max and Raphael clutching sticks to poke the fire, me clutching a wide-eyed Sophia, and Mom patting my shoulder, the wood smoke wrapped around us. I breathed in its smell, and it struck me as exceedingly odd that Tre wouldn't be going to bed with smoky hair. I thought back to the pixie stick moment that afternoon.
Since Tre was born, our lives have been like that moment. One of us experiences something, the other tastes it on their own tongue. The boys and I are exceptionally close, sharing both the bond of those who survived a divorce and the daily bond of homeschooling. This is both the reason it is so hard to leave him there this week, and the reason it's so important that I do.
These days, with him gone, seem unreal. I look at the clock and check the camp schedule, and picture him at the moment. We are eating breakfast, I think, and he is in choir rehearsal. We are driving to the library, and he is in a private lesson. We are at Raphael's ball game, and he is having game night. I miss him with a silent frantic ache and feel like I'm just marking time, moving through the moments until he's back. But even though I can't really see it, I know that he is living a very brightly colored week.
And that is the point of it all. That is the whole reason.