I’m sitting in the back of the van with the kids, watching Christian talk to his new wife up front. Out of nowhere, Nicholas glibly recites an entire line of some REM song with a lot of words, and I think, Uh-oh. I head forward and lean between the front seats to tell Christian we really have to watch our language now, and he turns to me briefly. “Stop interrupting!” he snaps. “We’re trying to have a conversation up here!”
Soul-slapped, I stumble back to the back seat. I know better than to interrupt. How rude am I? No wonder my kids interrupt my conversations all the time. And then whipped-puppy rises up in a howl of outrage and pain. Wait a minute. That’s supposed to be me up there.
There’s a touch on my elbow, a warm hand shaking me gently. “Kate,” I hear my husband’s voice muffled through the earplugs. “It’s quarter of six. Are you going to get up?”
I stir and remove my earplugs as the world shifts around me. I want to roll over and fling myself into the warm embrace, to prove that I’m still beloved, still valued, still the only one. But Christian goes on. “He’s kind of crying,” he says. “You want me to go get him?”
At certain points in a married couple’s life, there’s no need for proper names. I don’t hear anything, but there’s no doubt about which of our three boys is under discussion.”Yes,” I say. “Thank you.”
I settle into the nursing chair, closing my eyes to feel the first cool breeze in over two months coming in the open window, bearing the roar of the interstate and a low-grade hum, birds twittering, a scattered few crickets that have managed to hang on through the drought. I feel the textured knit cushion against the backs of my legs. And then a big eight-month-old with chubby legs and a voracious appetite is handed into my arms, making noises that make it clear he thinks my breasts are the only things standing between him and certain, instantaneous annihilation.
Michael nurses. Christian crawls back in bed and falls almost instantly asleep. And the world is again as it should be.