Sometimes I wake at two-thirty in the morning. Beside me, the baby is shifting in his sleep, sucking blindly at little fingers. But there’s something else. The sound of rustling in the hall. Someone tapping gently at the door. I rub my eyes. I elbow KC in the ribs.
“Wake up,” I hiss. “There’s someone outside.”
He mumbles something and lifts his sleep heavy body from the bedsheets. I hear bare feet sticking to the hardwood. The sound of a lock. The door opens, and closes again. After a moment, he’s back beside me.
“There’s no one there,” he says, “It’s only us.”
When I was pregnant, Aspen still tucked like a pearl inside of me, I remember him saying: “You haven’t been happy lately. Not really. Not since we’ve been married.”
“That’s not true,” my mouth said. You know the feeling you get in your face when you lie? Like the words are right there, between your teeth, and you have to tighten your cheeks to keep them in. I smiled at him, and my gums ached.
And I remember trying so hard to find that happiness. I hadn’t even realized that it was gone. I closed my eyes. Searched the fleshy walls that kept me. Picked through my memories.
Happiness has always come to me in staggered flashes. Quick coughs of light: palms pressed to my heart at the ashram, singing to Siva, to Krishna, to Hanuman. Lips melting into soft skin, tongue tasting, fingertips swimming. It is a feeling of lightness, and connection.
But if I could see my entire life from above, all 9125 days, there would be a handful of golden hours (some pressed all together in weeks and months, and others standing alone, a stitch of light here, another there). And on each side, the golden days would be packed tightly by darkness. Grey and black and blue and sadness as thick and heavy as spun wool.
Looking down from above, I cry.
Oh my god. Oh, my god, what a waste.
I’ve been trying to blame it on someone, anyone - my mother’s mental illness, my father’s abandonment, my children. That would be easier. But it’s me. It’s always been me. In wondering about myself - trying to remember who I’m meant to become and what I ought to give to the world - I’ve forgotten what I came here for. What I came to be a part of.
I wake at two-thirty in the morning. The baby moves beside me. He smiles and snorts in his sleep. Someone is shifting in the hallway. In the darkness, my eyes adjust. I can hear the sound of something tearing. Fire through forest. Train through skin and bone. I smell smoke.
“Wake up,” I tell him, but he rolls to his side and curls into himself. I kick him in the knee. But still he sleeps.
Carefully, carefully, I peel the covers from my legs. I climb out of bed. Bare feet stick to the hardwood. I press my ear to the front door and listen. Someone is there, breathing. With hands like fire, I switch the lock, I turn the knob. The door opens.
And there, standing in the hallway, is me.
Can I come in?
I have heard this voice before, only occasionally, only for a moment at a time: as a child, in the bean rows, sun turning my back golden, bringing fresh melon to my lips. At the ashram, song ripe in my throat. Hand pressed to my heart. With her, sleeping beside me. With him, sleeping beside me.
I reach for her and our fingers touch. She is warm and sweet and familiar. I smile, and step to the side. I let her in.
I’m happy you’re here, sweet you. I hope that the rest of your days are dipped in gold. And never forget: my God, how beautiful we are.