His shadow fits him perfectly: shadow bike and shadow boy, seamlessly stitched to wheels rolling over Wimbledon common. Spoking backwards, monochrome mirror machine unspooling what the painted world spools.
A September day stolen from summer. Earth dry and lumpy under dad-inflated tyres. Too bright and hot, too august-tranced for autumn. Too mediterranean, too buzz-of-sunbaked-dirt-hiding-threat-of-dogshit for a London suburb.
Too happy to be my son.
Eight years old, he wears whatever his mum puts on him: today, blue tee-shirt, grey shorts, bright blue shoes. He wears her beauty on his face. Her delicate profile, her freckle-dust. But he is all boy, loose limbed and tousle haired. Carefree as a dandelion clock. He trundles along on his sister's bike, soon to be his. He floats. The bike, the world, everything floats beneath him.
School bores him to tears. He can't understand its endless recitation of the upper-middle-class creed: the purpose of life is to outdo your peers.
He capers and clowns, armpit-farts, stays in the bath as long as you let him, basks for hours in mummy-love. He goggles at video games, at YouTube videos of American adolescents playing video games, until we take his device away.
Alone of the family, he seems unscathed by his father's moods. He lets grownups pass words over his head — while his sister traps and dissects every syllable, suffers for every scowl. Does he choose not to understand?
Listening to him sleep, his light untroubled breathing, is a powerful narcotic. Does he dream of floating?
When he lets me I hold his hand on the way to school. The sap of his childhood rises into my arm, veinwise and warm. I remember toting him around in a baby carrier: he was so peaceful I would forget he was there.
Everyone seems to be his friend. He shrugs off little-girl crushes, notes sent via mums. Even his monsters are fleeting: tantrums, nightmares, moments of shame — soon soothed away by food, affection, sleep.
Where did he come from?
He has my long-limbed, sporty-gangly physique. My elongated skull, squeezed by nature’s hand in some affectionate act of cranial modification. He has my blurred sight of the world's particulars, its wheres and whens — but not the dread that goes with it. My smog of anxious confusion redrawn as a smudgy summer haze.
He is much more his mother's son: her looks, her kind and sensitive temperament, her open, expressive features, powder pale skin. Her love of cosiness and pets, her terror of heights and frights and other strong beer.
But his happiness, his natural law of buoyancy, is all his own.