The dog is standing with hair on end staring into the dark of the bathroom and the open door of the girls' room on the other end.
"Mommy, the dog is barking at a people."
"Honey, there are no other people in our house. We are the only ones."
"Mommy, the dog is barking because he is scared because we are the only people."
I stare into the dark rooms allowing my eyes to adjust to the light. I tiptoe into the room, the dog hovering at my right, the girl at my left. Oh, please let it be a ghost. Please let it be her.A balloon hovers at person height, not quite enough helium to stretch to the ceiling, and not empty enough to fall to the floor.
I know how you feel, balloon.
"It is only your balloon, love, scaring him because it looks like a people." I swat the balloon into the corner. Adding "Banisher of Invisible People" to my job description.
Sam works twenty-four hour shifts. As Beatrice puts it, "It's just you and me now, Mommy." I hate to admit that I become like the dog, poised and waiting for trouble in the most benign of places. I am restless with Sam gone, even though he works overnight once a week. After all, I should be used to it. But I imagine all sorts of horrendous scenarios in my head without him here. We live in a house with no locks on any interior doors. But I have mapped out our hiding spots, cubby holes, and places I may be too big to fit into anymore. I carry a phone with me to bed, and make sure my hand can reach our billy club. I wake through the night to phantom noises, and creaks of our settling house. Beatrice and I whittle our time away painting, eating carrots, watching movies, cuddling in bed together.We eat frozen berries on the couch and watch cartoons. We sing songs when we walk into unlit rooms, and take a bath together. I let her sleep with me. We stay up too late and tickle each other.
The girl won't use a pillow to sleep anymore. She rests her head just below it, and searches the sheets for my hand. She doesn't want me to read her stories, or sing songs. She just wants me there. Lie quiet and still in my arms. She readies herself to sleep and searches the knots in our pine ceiling for cats.
Time is much too fast. I want her forever here in this bed, almost three. Saying "mine" instead of my, and calling a person "people". It seems impossible not to be able to bottle this time. To not be able to pick a moment to live in forever. Would we let our life go by, anyway, waiting for a moment that seems more perfect? I wouldn't. I would pick this one. One with us together in bed, cuddling and giggling and loving and being happy. "Being with you, Mama, makes me so happy," she says. And I tear up. "Me too, love."
I admit last night lying in bed, trying to read, watching Beatrice sleep, I found myself terrified of mortality. Mine. Yours. My parent's. My child's. Now, my children's. I doubt. Often. I doubt, constantly, even. I doubt my abilities as a parent. I doubt my diligence in pregnancy. I doubt my beliefs and my unbeliefs. I doubt my truths. I doubt justice. I doubt my knowledge. I doubt myself. Just last night I first called Thor "my son." It was a sea change in me. Suddenly upon me in a great motion, he is my son now. I whispered into the phone to Sam, "I don't remember when my son last moved,"
I don't remember when he did any of those things, yet I know he has. How could I be so careless? So careless as to let Lucy's death not affect a hypervigilance about his movements, and yet, I wait. I push him desperately hard. I drink cold water. I finally head downstairs, eat some chocolate in lieu of juice (poor me) and turn on television. He wakes in me, and kicks. He wants to play now, and I poke him and he kicks my finger, and he turns himself, and tickles my spleen. He is so active that I forget that I doubted ten minutes earlier.
Is that enough to remind me, for now, that he may not die?
But he may die. I may die. Suddenly. Unable to make peace. I drown the thoughts with reality television and lemon water. I just want to know who is right, I think during a commercial. The Buddhists? The Christians? The Zoroastrians? The atheists? Sometimes I think my fear of nothing is less than the fear of something unbelieved. I am full of doubt, hair standing on end, growling into the abyss.