We share an arm rest during the show, pass back and forth the water bottle. When I drop my program he picks it up for me. I don't even have to ask.
During intermission, we stand outside next to the smokers and watch the stray cats wrap their tails around the fences on the other side of the parking lot.
"Wanna go back inside?" I ask him.
"Nah. I like it out here," he says, adjusting his lapel. "The time change makes it feel so much earlier..."
I don't remember the last time we were alone -- just the two of us, without friends, without school, without guitar practice...
"When was the last time you and I were alone?"
He shrugs as we link arms and take a seat on the curb.
He's almost as tall as I am these days. We're one shoe size apart. He's going to be eleven in May. Start middle school this summer. We got him a phone as an early birthday present. He was the last of his friends to get one and was such a good sport about it that I surprised him one day after school, and now he texts me from sleepovers.
"What's up, Mom?"
It's getting cold outside so we make our way back into the theatre. We take our seats and unwrap our tootsie pops. Our theatre tickets came with them and we both agreed we weren't in the mood for candy but we've both changed our mind.
There's a star on my wrapper and the "Indian chief" with a bow and arrow, and later on, after the play, I will tell him that it's good luck. That when we were kids, we'd always check to see if we got the star, the bow and arrow... the Archer shooting his luck across our treat.
Some of the plays go over his head but not the ones I assumed would. We both have our favorites and they're the same...
It's already after bedtime when we get into the car to go home, but I suddenly feel hungry and Archer reads my mind when he says, "A Gardenburger sounds GOOD right now."
I make a U-turn a few blocks from home and head back up Fairfax towards Santa Monica to the Astro Burger on the corner of Gardner street -- a block south of my old apartment on Lexington.
"Two Gardenburgers," I tell the cashier, as Archer finds us a table. There are juke boxes on every one and he asks me if I have any change.
I pull out three quarters and he chooses his selections carefully... And then our burgers come and I tell him the story about the time I jump-started a stranger's car and how the stranger ended up being someone who worked at Astro Burger -- and for years I got free burgers because I was the girl who helped him when he needed help. I must have been nineteen at the time. And I ended up being super late to work because it took forever to jumpstart his car, but good karma is real and whenever I eat a Gardenburger, I think of him -- the man -- and how helping others will always pay off in strange and unexpected ways.
"But wasn't that stealing...?" Archer asks.
I say nothing as my moral compass blinks at me from across the table.
"It's kind of like stealing..." Archer says, biting into his burger. "You weren't paying for them, so..."
I shrug like I'm the one at the table who has much to learn and we go on eating to the sound of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Everywhere the wind blows....
"You wanna see something cool?" I ask him, passing our car in the parking lot.
It must be 11 now. Or even close to midnight. I don't care or want to know and neither does he. We're time traveling now.
We link arms and retrace my steps towards my old apartment on the corner of Gardner and Lexington. It still looks the same as it did... new coat of paint, trimmed tree--updated fixtures, but other than that, still the same.
"See that window up there?" I ask him. "That was my old bedroom."
"And see that window in the middle? That was my old bathroom. You could only get there through the closet, and there was a built-in bunk bed above an office next to the shower where friends from out of town used to sleep. That was where I found out I was pregnant with you. It was late summer in 2004 and I was wearing a long white skirt..."
We peer through the downstairs window and I give Archer a tour through what appears to be a dark and empty apartment. Either that, or the tenants are... minimal with their decor.
I tell him everything -- the whole story about the night I found myself pregnant with him. How my roommate had to hold me up because I couldn't stand. How I cried and wondered what I would do now. How I prayed even though I wasn't a pray-er...
"I wasn't ready to be a mom," I explain to him. "But I knew I was ready for you. I knew someday I would look back on that moment and it would feel like a beginning instead of an end."
He has a lot of questions -- questions he wasn't old enough for me to answer last time we talked about my pregnancy. He's always known the story. That his dad and I weren't married -- not even close -- when we decided to have a baby together. But this time, I explain to him how hard it was for me in those early weeks and months... the doubt... the fear... the love... the excitement... the fear... the doubt... the doubt.
We talk about CHOICE and why it's so important that women are given the freedom and support to recognize and act on their own instincts... that I don't know what I would have done had I felt forced... Because FORCING choice turns it into something else entirely. And one cannot possibly know that she has made the right decision if it has been decided for her.
"You are here because of love. You are here because I KNEW."
We press our hands against a window that used to be mine and it becomes ours.
I have been here before--eleven and a half years ago when I first picked myself off the bathroom floor --before I could even THINK of how I would handle my very unplanned pregnancy. I pictured this exact moment... standing here... in this very spot with my son--on the outside looking in at my old life with its old staircase and blue couch.
And that's when I knew...
That I would be here one day.
I watch his eyes scan the apartment as we stand in the quiet darkness for a few moments before a dog starts sniffing my ankle and we fall back down to earth.
Cool 'cause neither am I.
"Time travel does that to a person," I say.
I thank him for humoring me tonight -- for listening to my stories and sharing his own. We agree that we need to get out more often, just the two of us, that we never do that and it feels... important. Like revisiting those early years when it was just us two.
Archer pauses, and then recalling how our night began, says, "You're pretty lucky you got the shooting star, you know."
He plucks the wrapper from my bag and flattens it, holding it out for us both to see.
"I know," I say.