i stay

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{image is a photo of Katie and me with our friends, Lisa and Steve, and their daughter, T in 2005. The girls were four. The photo is on Katie’s bulletin board.}

It’s time for bed. Katie is stalling. She doesn’t want me to leave her room.

I’m exhausted and my patience has run thin, but so too, I feel the heavy press of time flattening the space where moments like this can live. I stay.

We recently bought an alarm clock for her. It was long past time, we decided, for her to start getting herself up in the morning. The clock is an orb of light that changes colors. I watch as one color gives way to the next, ever so slowly fading until the next transition begins. It’s mesmerizing. Stare as I might, I can’t quite pinpoint the exact time at which the change happens. I can only watch the transition.

“Mama?” Katie says.

The word is a question. Are you there? Are you with me?

“Yes, baby,” I say.

“You don’t smile like you used to.”

“What do you mean?” I ask. My voice sounds metallic.

“You’re just not as smiley as you used to be,” she says, “like when we were little.”

I don’t know what to say. I think I smile. Don’t I smile?

“Things have gotten more complicated I guess,” I say. “It’s just, I don’t know, kiddo, life is harder lately.”

My mind races through the Hard. Losing Noelle. My dad. Money. The house. In every direction, there’s Big, there’s Scary, there’s Hard.

“You know that picture of us with the M’s?” she asks, pulling me back. “The one from the duck boat?”

“Of course,” I say. The picture is pinned to the bulletin board above her desk. I see it every day.

“You look so beautiful in that picture,” she says.

“I was a lot thinner then,” I say, the words tumbling out of my mouth before I can stop them. I immediately want to hide them under the covers, hack them into small, unrecognizable pieces, anything to make them unsaid.

“You looked beautiful,” she says.

“Thank you, honey” I say.

“Mama?” she says.

The word is a question. Are you there? Are you with me?

“Yes, baby,” I say.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“I am, honey,” I say.

She’s quiet.

“I promise,” I add.

“Mama?” she asks again.

“Mmm hmm,” I answer.

“Will you stay for a while?”

I’m exhausted and my patience has run thin, but so too, I feel the heavy press of time flattening the space where moments like this can live. So I stay.

 

2 thoughts on “i stay

  1. This made me cry. Several diary posts do this to me, but for some reason, this went straight to my heart. It brought back a time in my childhood, when I asked my Mother to stay just a little longer. I knew she was over stressed but didn’t know why. I knew I needed her, so she stayed.

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