Most of the time, Sadness is alone. She sits atop a pile of toys, toys that cannot speak like she does, and waits for her only friend. Light peeks in through the curtains, casting long and stark shadows across the floor, giving her hope, and taking it away all the same. Days pass. Nights come and go. Sadness waits.
Sadness aches to hear my daughter’s footsteps trotting in through the door saying, “C'mon, dad! We have to find Sadness!” My daughter, Shania, will search beneath the couches, in the cupboards and along the shelves, retracing her steps from the last time she was here. It was so long ago. Shania remembers the spare room where I keep her toys and immediately darts in. Light enters once more, and she pulls Sadness close to her like a lost friend.
Shania squeezes Sadness’ hand.
“Find the fun, I don’t know how to do that,” Sadness says.
“Follow me,” Shania says, like she’s never heard Sadness say this before. She looks up at me and smiles.
Together, the two fill this house with life. Shania will scream as she runs up and down the stairs, Sadness holding on dearly. Staring down a dark hallway, Sadness will tell her, “We shouldn’t go in there. That’s a bad idea,” and Shania will charge forth into the unknown, determined to vanquish the darkness. Or, as I’m drawing up her bath, Shania will suggest Sadness come join her too and I will tell her that that’s probably a bad idea. They’ll color pictures side by side, share snacks and juice boxes, endlessly watch movies, and reenact their favorite scenes. In the midst of it all, I swear I can see Sadness cracking a slight smile.
When Shania has to use the bathroom, she bids me to hold Sadness for her.
“I’m sad,” Sadness says, me squeezing her hand. I can tell that she truly is. She looks so alone without my daughter.
I know what Sadness will say before she says it. I’ve memorized her phrases and the order of them. Because after I’ve driven Shania back to her mother’s house, I come home and clear away the toys, the crayons, the plates, organizing everything the way it was before I picked her up and it will look like she was never here. The blinds will draw for a close and everything will lie still and listless. This house will go back to just being me and Sadness.
Shania steps out of the bathroom. She’s gotten so big now, having outgrown her pampers, her onesies. I know one day she’s bound to outgrow Sadness.
Buckling her into her car seat, Shania asks if she can take Sadness home with her. I hesitate. I consider what will happen, and whether I’ll get to see Shania again. I won’t have an excuse for her to come over anymore, because I feel like I need to have one in order to convince her mother to let me spend time with her. Imagining her and Sadness tucked away in a house that I am forbidden to enter, I fear her mother won’t have any use for me and will cast me away even further. Sadness, I realize, is all I have left.
But I can’t say no to my daughter.
“Of course you can,” I tell her, and we embark on the long road ahead.
I park in front of her mother’s house. I don’t know when I’ll get to see her again. I will drive home with an empty car seat and I will wait for a call from her mother. A call that often never comes.
Sadness in hand, Shania walks up to the front door, her mother ready to let her in. She pauses at the top of the steps, lost in thought, or perhaps stumbling upon one. I’m about to ask her what’s wrong when she turns around and runs back to me. With her tiny hands, she lifts Sadness up towards me in the same way I did when I knelt down and introduced them, the day Sadness became more than just a talking plush doll.
“Will you take care of her for me?” Shania asks.
I take a good look at Sadness. The bifocals sitting snugly on her tiny nose; those concerned yet caring eyes of hers; her hair cascading to the side like a frozen waterfall; her blue knit sweater, everything blue about her. In the palm of my hand, she feels so soft and precious. Like a delicate teardrop.
“Of course I can,” I say. I plant a kiss on Shania’s cheek, and I let her go.
She marches her way into the house, offering me one final wave before the door closes. It hurts to watch every time, but this time I feel okay. Not good, but okay. Shania has entrusted me to do something for her. It’s my job to make sure Sadness isn’t alone. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.