His eyes are tired with knowledge and something bitter.

And there are times when I want to go up to him and say, "Act your age." I want to tell him this over the sounds of the ancient earth—of oak and ocean and grandfather clock, and I want to be so much louder. I want to say, "We're only sixteen, so why do your eyes look so old?"

But before I get that chance, his lips will quirk in that way they do and he will ask me if I've started on my essay for this-or-that-class because he knows I will say no, and that will make him feel better because he has already written his heading on the paper and everything. And then the cold feeling in my heart will go away because I know that we are still sixteen.

But after the essay has been written and after we have sorted the Lucky Charms into marshmallows and oats, he will look at me with eyes that have seen too much.

They don't match his face at all, I will muse. Because his face is bright and strong and young but his eyes are weary and cold—and I will want to tell him, "We're only sixteen, remember?"

But then he will grab a handful of little marshmallows in that piano hand and mush them into his ice cream, and he will look away and ask me what it's like to have both parents—he will ask me why I only eat the oats—he will wonder what I got on this-or-that-test.

Then I will remember that sometimes he is more of a kid than I am and I will wonder if my eyes have gotten much older over the years. He will say, "What?"

I will want to tell him, "Well, it's just that your eyes always look so much older than you are and it makes me a little sad and a little scared that maybe I'm growing up, too."

Only I won't say this at all because I will see the confused expectance of his face, and there will be a part of my heart that falters, and I will reply, "Never mind." I will grab some of the oats out of the Ziploc, look at them for a moment, and then take some marshmallows instead.

And he will look at me almost like he understands, out of eyes that have never been sixteen—and our little smiles will be uncertain and wonderful.

The bell will ring as the tiny oats crunch beneath our sneakers, but maybe tomorrow we'll be crushing marshmallows. We haven't really decided which feels better underneath our toes, but we're still sixteen, so we have plenty of time to think about that.

His eyes aren't so old when he's smiling and I'm never so worried when they are as young as newly-planted trees and rain puddles and stopwatches at 00:00.

author's note

so it's 12:50 in the a.m. and I feel like something different.

thanks always to JamieBell - you inspire me.