MY CHILD’S CRY STIRS ME FROM BED. After he’s soothed, I crawl back under the cooled covers and just barely register the time on the clock: 5:30am. But my brain has already stirred and my thoughts toss in the sheets. They swirl around and attack this sudden fact: that I have not shared a touch with my husband in 24-hours. Not an off-to-work kiss, or a return-home from work hug, or an after-dinner cuddle on the couch. Our child is sick, and when that happens, it all becomes a game of touch and go. Touch, and handoff, of the child. Moved from the arms of one to the other, while the remaining two hands juggle pans, meds, mail, pajamas, laundry, phones, pets, bottles. In the darkness of the morning, I consider the alternate universe, where I am not pregnant and so tired that I go to bed at the same time as our toddler, where we do curl up on the couch, with my head on his chest, and I fall asleep to sound of my husband’s industrial-strength heartbeat in my ear. They say an infant’s heart aligns with that of the bosom he rests his head against, and I’ve always suspected that it is the same with lovers. And that through the business and chatter of the day, if we can just get those pulses aligned, the rest will fall into order. In the darkness of dawn, treading all these drowning thoughts, I reach out into the radiating hemisphere from the body on the other side of the bed and slip my palm into my husband’s heavy, empty hand. And in a rare moment of marital surprise, his sleepy hand responds eagerly, viscerally clutching and squeezing mine twice, as if to say: I agree and I’m here. I instinctually love you. His grip holds, and I feel the warmth and course of his blood mingling with mine. Aligning. Leaving only two sets of footprints following a trail of crumbs over the cliff of sleep.
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