creative nonfiction by Mashalla Mukadam
I don’t mean to go to bed at 8:30 in the evening. I lay down in my queen-sized bed with my one-year-old son, in hopes he will fall asleep quickly, so that I can come back into the living room with you. Sometimes, I find myself falling asleep with him, waking up in the morning barely remembering getting in to bed. Sleep is a powerful thing and shown very valuable for raising a child. When I tell you I’ll come back, I earnestly mean it somewhere in me; still certainly the body will get what it wants.
Tonight we are both lying in the bed. I come in first, knowing you are shortly behind me, and quickly sink my hands underneath the pillow on the bed, cheek pressed up against its softness, where I wouldn’t move for hours. The sheets are cold, but not for very long as always. The other pillows are scattered here and there—on the other side of the bed, by the floor, and some on the couch in the living room. The sheets are dark blue with the image of a Hawaiian girl dancing in all white. The cases for the pillows consist of two clashing designs and colors, but in some way it all comes together, though maybe in my mind—in a “proud of my life no matter what” kind of way.
Lying there for a moment, the side lamp still lit, checking the time on the clock straight ahead of me sitting on a little rectangular wooden table with another shelf underneath, pressed against the wall. 9:14 p.m. “We made it this far” I laugh under my breath in a pathetic way, while no one was around, considering how irrelevant a person’s life can get when sleep takes over. The best part of the day is always lying in the bed, letting your body rest.
The A.C. is blowing full force, straight up above the door facing the bed. I watch and wonder if there is any chance a killer has put a video camera up in there—or more likely the previous tenant—and has been watching us since we moved in a year and a half ago. You tell me there’s no way. You’re probably right but I can’t help asking, acknowledging to you my fear so just in case you hadn’t already thought about it, you are now.
From the bed, you can see through the hall the door, the door leading to the bathroom where the light remains on. It shines so bright that we have to close both doors, but there’s still enough light to see our baby throughout the night. Usually sleeping with a one-year-old, you have to periodically get a visual of them to make sure they are not almost suffocating themselves, close to the edge; about to suffocate you. The light is essential.
You come in laughing at something you heard on T.V. and your laugh makes me laugh. It’s more of a chuckle by now but you’re still smiling, showing you top row of teeth, one which I know is fake and took many years to replace. Your dark beard is smushed by your T-shirt as you pull it over your head and then lift Chance, our son, up into the air, as if our child needed to get all wound up before he was supposed to go to bed. You hear a switch and before you know it we were all there in the bed, our son laying in between us tossing and turning in the dark. If he wasn’t already asleep he was going to need some guidance.
“Chance, will you please lay down,” one of us says first, in a stern voice. I could see the wide stretch of his smile forming through the darkness. His laughter was constant, it took nothing to make him laugh and everything he saw was in some way funny or had enough music in the background to dance too; swaying his body back and forth quickly, as he watches you watch him dance.
To describe Chance’s language would be best explained in a bunch of letters, some that stand out to me are T’s, B’s, C’s, M’s, W’s and D’s. When he screams, it sounds like a scream, but then ends with a bunch of tata-babas or something similar. He can repeat words back to you like cow, book,—one of his favorite books and probably the best thing he can say on command—bath, juice,—though pronounced oose—momma, daddy, dog and a couple other things. When he isn’t saying these, words he is saying a combination of the beginning of words and usually ends on a high pitch making it sound like a question. He talks loud and obvious, staring or even sometimes pointing right at you, like, “Don’t act like you don’t understand me.” The greatest part is that he understands everything I say and most people that are talking to him. “Go get your shoes. That’s nasty. You want some yummy-yummies? Let’s go change your diaper. Are you brushing your hair? I love you.” I know that he understands I love you because every time I say it, he gets this satisfied look on his face and almost acts shy. Here, tonight he is mostly laughing.
By the time the morning will come, things will not be as we left them; Brandon or myself having moved to the couch or the spare bedroom in a sleepwalker moment of the night, stressed by our lack of proper sleep. Chance usually ends up horizontal in the bed, his body pressed up against the line of pillows at the head of the bed. Brandon has a hard time moving him here and there to keep him straight as he rolls to the left and then to the right in his sleep. I do it with no problem though, subconsciously worrying about the whereabouts of my child even as he sleeps beside me. I wake up and watch him for a second, then straighten him up, lifting his head onto the pillow like a normal person. He is so soft and peaceful when he sleeps, almost giving off an angelic atmosphere above the surface of his body. He could easily be mistaken for dead, words I don’t like to say, except for the gentle rise of his chest up and down. His expression was blank, very unlike him. He was born with a murmur in his heart; although it had gone away, which it does in a lot of cases, causing the beginning of the end of sleeping at night as I knew it.
I could have easily put him in his crib, or his Pack ’n Play cradle, all newly bought; but I had to have him beside me, to make sure he was still breathing at all times, especially at night. I threw the two books I read on how vital it is to get your child sleeping in his own bed right out the window when I heard the word murmur and I didn’t care who, what, when, or why but that I was going to make sure he survived. First I prayed for him to stay alive for ten days, then ten weeks, then six months and so on until he reached the age of one and was out of the SIDS, (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), range. Now it is more so an unspoken prayer that I guess fate will deal with.
It was only the other day when I heard Chance whimper in his sleep. Then he did it again and again until I realized he must have been having a bad dream, acting just as a dog does rustling his feet about. I was sad that even if he woke up I would never know what that dream was about or how to protect him from it or why he even had it in the first place. I was glad though because on that note he would also not remember it, even though it had caused him pain. At 5:30 a.m. I wake up like clockwork and check on everyone. I go to the bathroom and then proceed to do the best I can at going back to sleep until I can no longer fake it.