If time were solid there’d be two ruts in this hall.
Two perfectly carved paths, tilled from both of my feet,
Like walking through snow.
Except today, there is no snow.
There never has, nor ever will be.
And that is because
Today it is hot.
Hot hot hot.
Up and down. Up and down.
Gray and white veins through our shade filled path.
The marble tiles of routine.
The little body starts off content but fidgety in my arms.
His round shapes, soft and warm, move.
Eyes flicking at every new step, neck never turning, just growing heavier, disappearing in my arms.
It’s the dance we follow towards the possibility of a close.
And that possibility is a nap.
His eyes change shape, content but serene. A little more relaxed, a little more bent. Edges more defined. We pause in the bathroom and peer into the mirror
If he’s awake, I kiss his head.
If he’s sleepy, he’s looking away.
We move on.
If he’s asleep, he’s a sweet mushroom, slumped over, ready to be put to bed.
Up and down, I tell myself. Two more ups and two more downs.
Wait, does this count as the first up?
Might as well make it three. Don’t check the mirror yet. Let’s put it off by one more tour.
Up and down.
The arms fidget less, the fists still curl, but they fold over mine, a little less resistance in the muscle holding them up.
A flick of the lashes encapsulating the light
Show me how the clock is ticking down.
Slower now, slower.
A decision has been made.
Two more ups and two more downs.
It’s like channeling my old running self in the middle of the race
Except I’m telling myself to keep it slow, not speed up.
Two hundred more meters. Now three. Two hundred more. You can do it Jennifer, two hundred more until you can quit, fake an injury. Huff huff.
It makes me think of grass and how hot and sweaty I was then, how warm and slickening I am now.
This hallway is Hot.
But there is a breeze. I catch it for an instant each time I walk through the spot of sun. In that spot where the light catches on his eyelashes.
Is that drool on my stomach? Or just the sweat from my arm holding him pressed against my skin?
My biceps and triceps should be so well formed, so well-disciplined after the weeks of this precursor to naptime.
Ugh, this heat. Ugh this walk. Ugh this ritual.
Hot, hot, hot
Running across the grass, spikes in my shoes, elevating my feet. Taking me to motion.
Running was the only time I really let my mind wander
Like the way it did when I was younger.
Races took on two different worlds
The park with the cheering parents and frantic coaches
And the one where your mind visits new planes and converses with future realities and passed relatives.
The ones who you make pacts with that if they can just get you through this race…
How soft would that grass be against my bare feet now.
How smooth and hard the tile is in this hall.
I can feel the film of dirt against my feet, the residue of previous afternoons. The residue of a little dog running back and forth up this hall too. Hmm, where is she now?
Running, running, running. 100 meters to go.
When I was little,
before the days of cross country races
and little mushrooms falling asleep in my arms,
My ability to perfectly inhabit each moment was surreal.
Like rhythmic, breathing spaces
I’d flesh Them out in color and depth and character.
New spaces, new planes, every thought a four dimensional journey.
I’d live inside each moment. Taking up every conceivable crevice.
Like when I’d sit on the couch upside down stretching my legs towards heaven, turning the ceiling to the floor and my head to the earth
Feeling comfortable pressure against my neck.
I used to think having him would mean the end of these things.
I thought my brains would become slush.
I thought I’d have no patience for thoughts.
I thought having you meant the end of inspiration.
Truth be told, lugging you up and down the hall, back and forth, back and forth
in our contractual dance
I walk – you rock – you sleep
has given these moments back.
I’m forced to take the time to make the two worlds,
The one of drudgery, boredom, exertion
And the one where my thoughts bloom and swirl past my scalp and down my neck.
Don’t get me wrong. There are days.
There are days there are days there are days.
But there are also days I have never known.
Every step up and down this hallway,
The warm little body growing heavier,
lashes carrying the sunlight down,
more slowly, more gently, more often,
Getting you closer and closer to sleep.
These steps bring me closer to who I was sitting upside down with my brain as the couch and my feet treading air. When there was no need for two worlds. When there was always just the one.