"I DON'T LIKE YOU!" she screams.
"I DON'T LIKE YOU, MAMA."
"I KNOW, BO. You said that already."
Meanwhile, Fable tugs at my arm. She's overtired after a long day and won't let go.
"Fable, please lie down and I'll be there so soon. Can you let go? For a few minutes? So I can get Bo back in her bed?"
"No, Mama. I want you."
Fable pulls me back to her as Bo stands over us.
"Do you want me to sit with you, Fable?" Archer asks.
Archer always knows what to do and if I didn't love him as much as I do I would envy him. I would find myself frustrated by his kindness during moments that feel very... unkind.
But Fable wants me.
Bo knows this, which is why she refuses to get into bed.
She senses my handicap and expertly exploits it. While smiling.
"Please go back to your room," I say. "I'll be there soon..."
"No," she says, casually. "I'm playing Legos."
Fable squeezes my arm, sensing that I am about to get up.
"STAY HERE?" she whimpers.
She's afraid because she saw something earlier that scared her. She is certain that if I leave her something will happen. That a nightmare will find her even though her eyes are open.
"I'll be right back," I say, tearing away from her arms.
Bo clutches two handfuls of LEGOS as I carry her under one arm.
"BUT I WAS PLAYING LEGOS!" she screams.
Fable screams from down the hall as Revi starts to cry.
Revi has been up half the night these last two weeks... in and out of our bed... sleepwalking around the house... in need of water...
"Don't be angry at Bo," she says.
BUT I AM ANGRY.
"I have to be angry at her, Revi. She isn't listening."
Fable has worked herself into a frenzy and I can hear Archer down the hall telling his sister to breathe.
"It's okay to be afraid. Sometimes I get afraid..."
I try to reason with Bo, explain to her that Fable needs me right now and that I will be back to cuddle her soon, but Bo isn't having it. She throws her Legos across the room.
A lego hits Revi.
As Fable screams.
"I need you, Mommy!"
"I hate you, Mommy!"
"Cuddle me, Mommy!"
"Mom? Fable needs you."
I can't breathe. I press my face against the wall. Bo gets out of her bed. Fable calls my name. Archer calls my name. Revi calls my name. I don't know my name.
"I'll be right there," I call to everyone and no one and nothing.
"GET ME THE FUCK OUT," I say to myself.
I leave Bo and Revi's room and climb back into bed with Fable.
"I'm here," I whisper.
But I'm not. I'm somewhere else now -- in a soundproof box where nothing can reach me but silence. I'm not here.
Shhhh. I'm here.
I get into bed with Fable who wraps her arms around my neck.
"Please. I can't breathe..." I tell her.
She loosens, wraps her hands around my shoulders instead.
The other night, as a candle was burning down to the wick, the glass around it exploded. It made a loud bang and I got up from the couch to find the candle still burning on the shelf. The glass was gone. The wax remained. The wax and the fire. I blew it out, cleaned it up, haven't lit a candle since.
Sometimes we have to disappear to protect ourselves from breaking -- to protect our children from the shards.
I say nothing for the next hour. I go back and forth between bedrooms, calming and cuddling, scratching backs and nodding my head...
To them, my silence is more frightening than my noise.
But it's all I have left tonight.
It's nearly 10:00 when I text Hal asking him to pick up cigarettes on the way home. The stash that I keep in the back of my closet is empty and I could use a little something.
Some people look forward to a glass of wine or a joint.... or an episode of The Bachelor. I look forward to the buzz of a sporadic cig -- to watching my breathe curl between my lips -- to releasing my exhale, like toxins into the night.
On nights like tonight, it is the light at the end of my tunnel.
The cherry on top.
It's 10:39pm and soon enough I'll be asleep and I'll wake up tomorrow morning and forget what tonight felt like.
And no one but Hal will know that I smoked on the stoop in my shower cap to keep my hair from smelling. Which is why I'm writing this post. Because this is part of it, too.
Surrounded by mess and a silence that stings.
Picking up legos and tucking in limbs after the war...
"They're asleep so I won," I think.
But I don't want to win anything. I want us all to tie, you know? I want us all to wear flower crowns and hold up peace signs and sing each other to sleep every night without conflict.
Why does there have to be conflict?
And flying Legos.
I sink deeper into the couch and adjust my laptop, which is burning my legs through the blanket.
It's okay, I type to myself.
Tomorrow is coming.
Bo throws her arms around my chest.
Fable is asleep next to me and Revi is curled up in a ball at my feet and Hal is already at work. (Later on he'll text me that he slept in Fable's bed because there was no room for him. "We need a KING," he'll say. It's time.")
"Good morning, Bo," I say. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'm fine."
"I love you."
"Me too, Mama."
"I don't like fighting with you."
"I'm sorry, Mama."
"I'm sorry, too."
"Are you hungry?"
... But first to wake Fable and Revi, who stretch like cats in the early light. Fable smiles like nothing happened last night. Revi plays peek-a-boo with the covers and laughs... like everything is wonderful. Flower crowns and peace signs and was last night a dream?
These morning afters aren't unlike the other kind of morning afters... I barely remember what happened last night. Maybe that's because we have to move on in order to move forward. Kind of like the amnesia of childbirth and how quickly we forget the pain.
We have to. Otherwise, well... we have to.
It's okay to block out, push away and move on.
"Why was I mad again?"
"Why were you scared?"
"Why did you throw the Legos...?"
I would ask these questions if they mattered. I would ask these and a thousand other questions if we had time to sit down and discuss the minutia of last night but it doesn't matter now.
They have moved on and I follow them into the kitchen.
Archer is already seated at the table eating his toast.
"Good morning, guys!" he says.
A new day is here and everyone wants breakfast.
Life is loud. So loud, that sometimes I have to close my eyes and cover my ears to escape the moment, to prevent myself from thrashing. Then there are those times that are quiet, muted, dreamy.... Like the voices have been put on pause as the picture continues to move forward and the animals in the sky shape-shift into abstract non-sequiturs and all the tripping and skipping and yelling and asking and taunting and running is replaced by smooth silence and bodies that embrace with rested mouths.
And in those moments, sporadic as they are, I realize that loud is okay. Loud makes way for quiet. Loud grays hair and wrinkles hands. Loud is where dance parties live. And tantrums. And "shh... this is my favorite song!" And broken dishes and laughing so hard I pee. Loud is the sound of sewing machines that don't really sew and children's theatre ensembles and "it's go time! Let's roll, people! Hustle up!" Loud is guitar practice and puppet shows and fists on the piano for twenty minutes straight.
Loud is what life sounds like when it isn't resting. Loud is all I've ever really wanted. Loud is where I find my peace.
... These are thoughts that I am having the morning after I pressed my face against the wall and screamed into the diagonal cracks.
These are thoughts I am having alone in my house after dropping my kids off at school this morning, Archer in his green and Fable in her green and Revi in her green and Bo in her... blue.
Bo didn't want to wear green today.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
She was sure.
She is always sure.
And on this morning, in this moment, I respect that. This morning I say, good for her for breaking the rules. This morning I say a lot of things I would have never even considered last night. This morning smoking disgusts me. And I miss Bo's fire. And Fable's arms... And perhaps it's because the burn is gone and I can breathe again, but I miss them.
The house is quiet and my throat doesn't hurt anymore and I can't wait to pick them up after school.
You were right, I type to myself.
Tomorrow is here.
And everything is okay.