The Nighttime Routine

Tonight, after coming downstairs, she had heard the little one’s door opening and closing, opening and closing. Heard his footsteps across the floor of the game room, heard him jumping across the worn-out springs of the loveseat that was shoved into the corner.

The Baby

Not just the heat of the summer, but the pace -- so slow. Endless days melting into one another, the sun perpetually alight in the sky, blazing down upon them like the judgment of God. And now, with kids, it moved even slower, each day a thousand lifetimes.

Summertime

In all honesty, your hand is not so small in mine anymore. Your whole body used to fit along my torso, was once squeezed between my ribs. Now, you shout out words as if you have always owned them. As if they have been yours from the beginning.

Sundays

Her mama’s attention is on the man at the front. Her face is red, and her breathing is heavy and wet sounding, but she’s smiling and nodding so enthusiastically the bench beneath them vibrates.

Marriage

She can tell that he doesn’t believe her. There’s something ugly in his face. Something taunting. She shouldn’t have had that glass of wine. His face looks like it’s sliding down.

Fireworks

To her, it feels like the sky is shaking – the pounding, deafening beat of the houses around them sending fireworks into the air. Afterward, there’s that lull, that indeterminable wait as someone sets a container out onto the street, lights it, and runs away, a sea of faces turning upwards to wait for it to explode.

Sandcastles

You dig and dig and dig, and the pile on top of my feet grows until my ankles disappear. “Are you going to build that to my knees?” I joke. You look up at me for a moment, then bend your head again without answering.

Baking

He grabs the spatula she hands him, stirs until the flour whirls up, sticking to their eyelashes and coating their lips. He licks off the sticky paste and grimaces. It tastes like chalk.

Dating

In the casino, the carpet is thick with the smell of bad luck. She can almost see the once hopeful faces like ghosts along the edges of the room: gathering empty glasses around their elbows, once bright eyes, now half open and bloodshot, shoulders slumping and spines curling, slinking towards the exit like feral cats

The Neighborhood

She can almost hear the three of them inside, Harold’s loud voice acting out Green Eggs and Ham or The Princess and the Frog, changing his voice to match each character. She used to love listening to his rendition of the witch in Snow White, though sometimes, the voice reminded her too much of her own

Rescue Baby

You run your trucks up the crest of each hill, watch them flatten themselves at the bottom as they skid and scrape against the wooden edges of the sandbox. You throw one into the air for a jump, head tilted towards the sun as you watch.

Bubbles

You tell me that they are tickling your skin, that it feels like the small feet of a thousand ants crawling across your arms. You try to show me, blow the bubbles at me, but they won’t stick. They pop against my shirt, my fingernails, the concrete at my feet.

Soft Ice Cream

Outside, the trees are whispering, and the wind is picking up until the sky turns a sandy gray that reminds me of wool, all those itchy sweaters my mother brought with her from New England that lay in stacks in her closet. The hair on my arms stands up and even in the heat of the kitchen, I wish I had a jacket.

Dear, You

I told you how much I missed you and how much I wanted to feel the weight of your palms on my skin because it had been a few weeks since I had seen you. I even told you that I knew you were with Cathy or Cathleen or whatever her name was, but that I didn’t mind if you showed up with strands of her hair caught in the buttons of your shirt or the bruise of her fingertips on your collarbone .

Why We Could Never Keep It

At the new house, you each had your own room. And then, the baby came, and your father had his own room too, sleeping in the spare room upstairs while I woke up with the baby at night to nurse. You and your sister got older and your father worked more and somehow it felt like the baby never changed.

Begin Here

Me, sitting outside your door while you scream and kick at the slats of your crib, sleep training book splayed out open in front of me, lapping up my tears. Me, staring at my watch as the seconds stall and stall and I can’t breathe. Picture the sharp kick of your heels against my chest as I finally rush in and pick you up.

Meanwhile

The cracks in the foundation are growing. I find myself measuring them with a ruler each day, making little tick marks on the cement with the date penciled above. It reminds me of the way my mother used to document the height of my brother and me on the back wall of her closet, which, in the end, she painted over when they moved out of that house.

After the Rain

They scoured the yard for weeds and gave them to their mother as a bouquet, roots and dirt hanging from the bottom. They decided that flowers needed grass and gave her handfuls of blades like tufts of hair.

The Quiet

You spoke, and I tried to listen, but my mind floated away, and I couldn’t catch it -- it felt like a balloon let loose on a sunny day, seeking the heat of the sun with single-minded fury. I wanted the clouds to soak up my body, for my skin not to feel so tight.

Gone

There was the sweet smell of rain, the mist that caught in my eyelashes, stroked the skin of my cheeks, kissed the bridge of my nose and the backs of my knees as I stood at the end of the dock, begging the lake to wrap me in its cool relief. The water lapped at the edges of the tree roots along the shore, eddied out beneath me in dark, swirling pools.