6am, I’m the only one awake now. Staying at home for the weekend in order to work at the pool, I share a room with the three little ones. Sisters back to back in their big bed, pink blankets and stuffed animals scattered around them. There’s a toddler bed at the end of their bed; blue sheets, Superman blanket. The little guy’s not in there, though.
He slept there last night. Fell asleep with his Elmo milk cup, dark little hands tucked under his soft cheeks. I heard him when I went to sleep, his breath rattling, shaking. He’s got a cold now, and he coughed and sputtered in his sleep; rubbing his itchy nose in his dreams. I fell asleep in the room, listening to his sleeping breath alternate even, resting, with coughing. But he left the room sometime during the night, and it’s quiet now.
I get up, shuffle across the hall to the bathroom. The old, dark, wooden floor creaks, just in one spot. I hit that spot, accidentally. My backpack, overnight bag, is in the bathroom. I find my pants, step over the creaky floorboard to my closet, flip through dresses, skirts, tops, to my purple work shirt. Brush teeth, hair in a pony tail, bathroom light off.
In the kitchen, I stand against the counter, eat a yogurt. There are five different bottles of vitamins in the cabinet, labeled with black Sharpie. N, mine. G+L, the little girls. T, the mother. I eat two of mine, the gummy ones, in the dim light of the kitchen.
The kitchen window faces a brick wall. Across, offset by two feet, someone’s laundry room looks into our kitchen. Between, there are two cement walkways, a thin strip of green plants between them. It’s the middle of May- spring- even though it’s still chilly, and the sun is rising quickly, casting pale white light onto everything in its path. The flimsy plants glow bland green in the growing light.
My ride will be here soon. I find my pens, shrug into my yellow coat. I’ve only brought flip-flops home, but I’ll be barefoot at the pool, anyway. I step into the living room, past the front door, to glance out the front window. The blinds are closed, though; this couch room, play room, school room, living room has been transformed into a bedroom.
The mother sits in the corner, at the very front of the house, rocking the baby boy. It’s hard to breath lying down when you’re sick, and 3am, she woke up with that little boy, and now they’re both sleeping there in the rocking chair. She’s pulled the special grey blanket- her Christmas present to herself- around them both, and his head is slumped, tired, against her. Sitting up against her, he breathes clear, easy.
Later, in a couple of weeks, the little boy will leave; he’ll return to the mother who gave birth to him. But for now, he sleeps on the blue sheets and he eats out of the Cars bowl in the seat at the end of our table. For now, we love him and teach him and feed him and dress him. And the mother, she gets up at 3am to change him, rock him, love him.