"Whassat, daddy?" his daughter asks him, pointing toward the steamingmanhole in the middle of the street.
He is taken by surprise. It never occurred to him that she wouldnıt knowthe obviousness of the steam that leaks through every pore of the city. Butshe is, after all, only four and barely more than a baby.
"That's steam," he tells her. "You know what steam is, donıt you?"
"Steam," she says, seemingly considering the idea of it for the first time.
"Yes, steam," he says, pausing as he searches for the best way to explainsteam to such a small child. "Youıve seen steam before. It's there and notthere, kind of like fog or mist, but you have to be careful around it, because itıs hot and can burn you."
"Steam" she shouts, and she laughs, skipping beside him, her small handrattling in his palm, "Steam! Steam! Steam! Steam!"
But by the time they hit the playground she has forgotten about steam. Allshe wants now is the swing. She wants pushing, not her father's carefulexplanations.
"Faster," she says. "Higher," and seeing how happy she is, he sends her outthen gathers her in, feels her body's warm imprint touch his hands and driftaway, over and over.
"Higher." She still wants to go, "Higher!" Only this time he sends her toohigh for her own good, because she gets scared and begins to cry.
He reins the swing to a stop, scoops her up, sees over the top of her headto the lean teenagers hooping up a sweat on the nearby basketball court, oneof them rising with the ball toward the chain-net rim. e feels his daughtertugging on his t-shirt, pulling him nearer. Wonder has wiped away hertears.
"Look," she whispers, pointing to her footprint in the sand beneath thesettling swing, "I was there, and now I'm not."
He squeezes her gently then sets her down: so young and she's already begunto understand impact and leaving -- longing's proof that love and distancemean someone can place a mirage of themselves inside your heart. Can bethere and not be there at the same time. Like steam. And some part in himbreaks for the ache of her discovery, which is nothing, really, but a littleshoe's mark near the stubbed butt of a cigarette.
Later, he rides her home on his shoulders while she happily points out everything.
"Bus!" she says, when one wheezes by.
"Birdie!" she shouts, and he looks up just as the dark bird leaps from abuilding's edge onto the wind.