“you don’t need me.“
It got quiet after that.
If you had denied the reality that there was a disconnect, you should have known from then. Having gone to two visits for vaccinations prior, she recognized the baby by name before picking up the chart to find her initials. We sat in a close enough proximity that standing our daughter up on our knees served as a bridge that joined you and I, yet, there must have been an air of distance that was easily felt upon entering.
“Are you the mother and father?”
The softness of the yes that was released was loud enough to invite tension in. And just like that, the glue that bound us–if only for a few minutes–ripped apart as the doctor took her from our hands. How fucked up of me to think:
Someone freed my baby from the misery of her own parents.
Sitting in the silence of the examination room cut deep and I wondered about the prospect of our children well aware of our separation. She continued to ask questions, each one feeling as if the Universe was utilizing this woman as a vessel to get through:
“Does she show signs of happiness at home?”
Do you, Erica?
Yes, she does.
“Does she sleep in her crib?”
In you being away, they tip-toe around your return. Here at home, here in this bed. Afraid of how Mommy would respond to the triggering sound of “Daddy.” They make restrained remarks like, “I can smell him here.” When I put the kids down at night, I prop extra pillows where you’d lay to hide the scent on your side.
You’re here, even in your absence.
I don’t tell her that our daughter gives me comfort in what feels like a broken home, so it’s only right that I take her out of her crib in the middle of the night to lie next to me. I’m alone and trying to figure this all out, and baby girl keeps the thoughts of how she came about, around. I’ve got to hold on to that. And I have to learn to rid myself of all of it, too. She holds your spot in a memory foam mattress that swallows her whole.
You are here. Even in your absence.
Yep, she sleeps in her own bed.
presence and absence; that’s been the theme of it all.
Curiosity killed me. An unfamiliar, yet similar scent of womanhood followed you inside. Our conversations were different. Being a Cancer, you never were one to say much, to begin with, but shortened conversations were substituted with silence. I did hear you emanating off of your fingertips, your tone of voice disguised as default notification sounds at 2:24am. Soulmates turned strangers living under one roof. I wanted in. In my own home, I was left out.
separation and confirmations; the death of us since her birth.
Months later, we sit next to one another with green and blue text bubbles between us, entertaining wandering souls that fell into our laps. We palm phones and grip secrets with the same thumb that strokes her back to sleep, and pray that our transgressions aren’t wiped on her skin. “Bless the hands that prepared this food” takes precedence during prayer ‘cause we know what our fingers have said that our mouths could not. We hope that our children don’t consume our sins.
“Is she saying any words? Responding to your voices?”
With dialogue bordering extinction, the apartment is wreathed with song lyrics and the echoes of our babies’ laughter. Maybe it was a simultaneous mental note that words are barely spoken between us, that we blurted out a synchronized yes–the first time in a while that we’ve been on the same page. We shared the story of how ‘dada’ came about and how she’ll squeal upon hearing my voice at the door after work. I quietly let out a laugh that went unnoticed by the room except you. And perhaps in that second, you and I reconnected, hope briefly became a thought.
Hope–inked at the tip of my spine, coincidentally crippling me from moving forward.
“Is she crawling?”
Are you, Erica?
Come nightfall, I express missing you under the guise of “maybe spending the night will be good for the kids,” and the children’s once withdrawn words shift to open proclamations of “Daddy’s sleeping here again!” I tell myself, he’s staying because of the kids.
And when it’s quiet, for an hour or so, the weight of our bodies fuse with the burdens we’ve been carrying throughout the years–our exchange, equal parts sexual liberation and mental stagnation.
But there’s a guilt in backsliding, going against my healing that awakens me.
I should have been let us go.
I say it low enough so that it doesn’t disturb your sleep; softly in that it hints at shame. I wished you heard me, but maybe I needed to say it out loud to convince only myself. He’s staying because you want him to. Because despite everything that’s happened, you want confirmation that you’re still wanted. I think about how we as women neglect the magic and magnitude of our own intuition. If perhaps, we welcome our own misery with open arms and legs when we continue what should cease. We bank heavily on hope. Potential. Promises we know will go unfulfilled. For many of us, we leave with less…and still go back for more. Freedom is hard work, uncertain, and terrifying. Captivity can be somewhat comfortable. I remember that lying underneath the confines of your arms, trying to find ways to not make this feel familiar.
No. No progress on movements.
And for a second, her affirmation of “she’ll get it soon enough, Mom” stings. I know that my daughter will. And maybe, I will, too. Because although I feel empty most days, what matters is that,
somehow, in this moment,
I’m still here.
Even in your absence.
Even in our separation.