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.


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.


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.


As the tension left, I suddenly felt like the wind had been knocked from my chest, as if I had fallen from a swing and very suddenly found myself attached to the ground instead of flying through the air, with black spots across my vision, and my lungs so flat I didn’t think I would breathe again.

Once They Were Up

The two of them ran across the game room, their feet pounding against the floor as if they were giants. They crawled through their vinyl tunnel, stuck their hands through the holes they had torn into it, beckoned one another to come in.


The younger one wraps himself around her legs in front of the stove, pulling at her sweatpants, wiping his snot and saliva down the length of her calves like the gummy trails of snails. The oil in the frying pan pops onto her fingers and burns the insides of her wrists and she shouts for the younger one to back away and for the older one to stop jumping, but neither one listens.

Last Night

They fall to the ground as the ball does, and its thud echoes in their small chests like the sound of the front door slamming the night before as their dad left. They lie there and pretend that the clouds will fold them into their warmth.


His brother shouted at her to never stop, to keep spinning them forever. He could picture the three of them, spinning as the sun sank and the darkness swallowed them, the night lights turning on and dousing them in their soft glow.

What He Remembers

He woke up in the dark warmth of the car as it started to hail. The chunks of ice popped against the windows, the sharp sound against the glass and the metal of the car like miniature fireworks. The clouds outside looked low and hungry, and when he pressed his hand to the window it left a perfect print of warmth on the glass.

The City

By the time I get to our block, my hands feel numb, the gloves I remembered to bring to work still sitting on my desk next to my computer. I can see the faint outlines of age spots around my knuckles, the skin looser than I remember, chapped and dry.

The Doctor's Appointment

At the desk, I nod hello to the woman and write my name across the sheet on the counter in front of her. She’s round and large chested and her eyes remind me of an owl’s – wide and deep with thick, dark lashes.

The Lake

She listens to the sound of tennis pounding over the paved track, the controlled breath of the runners that pass her by. She can’t walk around the lake without losing her breath, feeling the jolt of the pavement in her hips. Her body hasn’t been the same since having her son, or at least that’s the excuse she gives herself.


They built streams and rivers and damns. They shouted instructions to the sky and begged for more rain to flood the yard. They studied the clouds and named them based on their size. They searched for ones that looked dark and swollen with water but found none.

Leaf Angels

The boys pile leaves that have fallen into their yard from the neighbors’ trees. They laugh and throw themselves into the piles, opening and closing their arms and legs in great, swooping arcs. “Leaf angels!” they tell her.


It’s in those moments that she feels him the most — the moments when her breathing slows, and her teeth stop chattering and her skin goes from tingling to numb and the world feels like it is standing still and that if she even breathes she will ruin it.

The Oldest

If he wakes up and the moon is still outside his window, he whispers and rolls them along his dresser, reminding them to move quietly because it’s still too early to be awake. Sometimes he tries to coax them back to bed and they all fall asleep on the floor of his closet or in front of his bookshelf.

The Zoo

He watches them pick through plastic plates piled with fruits and vegetables. A small, long-haired monkey grabs a piece of banana and nibbles the soft part. He wonders if the monkey would also like a pouch of baby food, but neither his mom nor his dad thinks to offer him one.