I liked the neighborhood because you could hear crickets. Some people, it bugs them, but I liked following their rhythms. When they came out it was time to go quiet, to calm down and let them do the talking.
The lamp stayed pretty close to me when I read. I liked the heat from the bulb. Me smirking with the thought of being part moth, her weight resting silently on my lap. She looked up. “Hey why don’t I feed her and put her down, you can keep reading,” she said, lamp glow reflecting from her eyes.
“No, no I can wrap this up…”
“Stop. You’ve been so great, you’ve earned this. Let that genius off its leash for a minute. What is it this time?”
“Pharmacology, something about drug interactions. Not bad…at least now I’ll know not to mix the aspirin with the ibuprofen.”
Her laugh. My heart clamping around my rib cage.
Without another word she stood up, and as I watched her walk away I had that feeling, the one that comes rarely, but often enough. Its a feeling that is as shod of understanding as possible, an explosion that the body and mind has to sprint to process. The opposite of abject terror. It is the thought that this form, this skin, this color and this shape that you are looking at is going to be yours forever. And the ensuing feeling that all of that is o.k.
Sleep and the baby monitor made for an uneasy time. Her constant slipping in and out of bed. My reassurances.
“You checked on her again. How is she?”
“She’s sound asleep, warm. She looks happy.”
“She’s going to be OK you know…the worst part is over.”
“I know, Its just…I can’t shake it just yet. I know I will, but not yet.”
The expression on the Doctor’s face moved so quickly from “minor setback” to “major crisis”. That moment split itself down too many times, he moved too slow for me. Asked for something in the room, something about constriction, oxygen, heart rate. I froze.
“Alright, I understand. Just trust me, we’re in the clear.”
“I know. I love you.”
Secretly I was glad for her watching. I didn’t mind vigilance, didn’t want to lose this for lack of looking.
Vigilance degrades into other places though…paranoia for one. And that in itself needs to own an eye or two.
It started as a small twitch. The feeling of falling and then waking. Then on waking there was a gasp, then eventually a scream. I didn’t like it and as I would try and pass it off as simple nightmares, I would find myself ashamed. One night I woke rubbing my eyes over an open drawer in the kitchen…the one full of the metal utensils, not the plastic.
I looked at it for a moment as I crawled back to consciousness, then got a glass of water and went into her room. My hand underneath her tiny nostrils, feeling the reassurance as she took in a little air and shifted a bit.
I crawled back in bed and did the same to my wife. She was warm, I was thankful. I let my arm around her show my gratitude. Felt it pool into my hands and fingers, and then, active as a breath, I poured it into her. My heart coiling into a spring again, my eyes getting wet.
The crickets picked up their pace a bit.
Screaming. Shots clicking off a few rooms away.
“Wake up. One of em got pregnant.”
“What? Not possible.”
“Possible my fucking left nut. Dead folks getting up and walking around is not possible and that shit happened. FUCK ‘possible’. One of the bitches got pregnant. Little shit bit the dick off a john from inside. He turned, got one of my dudes, and this place is done. Now get. Your. Shit. We’re out.”
“I’m done talking to you. You got one minute.”
The interval of the screams, I focused. The gunshots. There was no rhythm, not like the crickets. Too frenzied, too wild. Too…human. Nothing was in control anymore. I would have to build my own rhythm…