A British summer night, hot and wet, keeps me awake among other things. The pitter-patter of rain on the windows is somewhat soothing. With the pounding of my heart, they mix together to make a rhythmic drum beat that echoes through my body. The sky is black, cloudy, no stars peep through the holes in the net-curtains, but the moon provides a little light. Books and plants on the window sill throw long shadows over the bed where we lie wrapped in the thick duvet with little clothes on underneath.
I wonder to slip out of bed and into the next room, to check the chest of my little son rise and fall as I did for so many months when he was born. Those months have gone. He is no longer a baby, but he is a child. A proper child, with a chubby face and pudgy fingers. Sometimes the feeling from five years ago, the urge, to reassure myself of his life comes over me on sleepless nights. As routine dictates, I go into his room, the back of my mind knowing it is an obsession to think negatively, and my heart plunging at the guilt to want to stop my head assuring his safety. I’m quiet over the carpeted floor, and lean over his bed. I can hear breathing. I know it is his, but the risk, the thought, of mistaking my own breathes for my child’s overcomes me, as it does every time, and I lower myself onto the floor. I lean my head against the yellow wallpaper marked with steam-trains and aeroplanes, and watch as his chest goes up and down, up and down.
A feeling I had thought I had forgotten, relief, swells a little in my heart, and I sit for what feels like a few minutes. The night passes in these minutes, as I finally get up to make my way quietly to bed, get some rest, sleep a few hours before the sun wakes, and in turn, wakes us. Stepping back into my bedroom, my wife is dead still. Dead quiet. She makes no noise, and shows no signs of disturbance as I get back into bed, letting some cold air into the warmth created under the covers. As I settle onto my side, back to back with my partner of eight years, friend of ten, I reach down to my phone, in its rightful place on the floor, tied to the charger. Press any button and the screen lights up to show a picture of Elena with her dark curls making a moustache for five-year old Sam with four digits accompanying: 03:47.
It is too late to sleep, I will be getting out of bed once more in just over two hours, but the sandman whispers in my ear: sleep is most becoming at awkward hours.
I turn, uncomfortable, sunlight shining through the net-curtains. Elena is awake, staring at the ceiling, hands together over her stomach. She turns her head slightly and gives me her morning smile: closed mouth, drowsy eyes. I give my closed mouth smile in return, and she looks back up at the ceiling, as I close my eyes, eager to savour the last few minutes of shuteye that has been awarded me this morning.
The good intentioned, self-consented five minutes turns into a morning nap, and when I finally drag myself out of bed, my little boy is dressed, ready for school in small grey shorts and white short-sleeved polo shirt. A knotted red and grey striped tie, with elastic making the neck, is hung on the banister with a red book bag, and his mother is putting his small shoes on his small feet. I pick him up and give him a big kiss and move his dark hair away from his eyes. His face is warm, cheeks pudgy and lips sticky with jam.
“Love you, love you,” I tell my son and wife accordingly, giving my wife her kiss, passing the sticky jam on. She takes Sam’s hand, his packed-lunch, book bag, and car keys and exits, shutting the door behind her.
In the shower, the fast, heavy beats my heart emitted last night return. I try to calm myself. The shower gets hotter, and I feel faint. Rinsing myself off, I hurry to get out and drink some water, towel wrapped around my legs, hair dripping and feet leaving small patches of water over the bathroom floor.
The water cools me, soothes my throat, removing the scent of soap that often gets lodged at the back of it. My hands are still quite warm, and veins stick out on the back of them. They are soft and disappear when I make fists, or run my fingers over them. I forget quickly enough as I stand in front of my wardrobe, staring at suit after suit, shirt after shirt. It seems inappropriate, but what is appropriate for such an event? Tracksuits? Gym clothes sit at the bottom, untouched for two months, where the local fitness centre has suffered my neglect. I settle for a pair of tattered jeans and a light blue polo shirt to match. The lawyer in me, shying away from the casual look, must always co-ordinate.
I hear the door open downstairs, as I pull on dark blue socks. Wiggle my toes, to make the pointy ends of the seam comfortable on the end of my little toes, make my way downstairs where Elena stands waiting at door, without Sam, packed-lunch or book-bag, but with car-keys nonetheless. She smiles and sighs and greets me with a kiss as I hit the last step of the stairs.“Are you ready?”