tonight / by Christina Rosalie

“Mommy,” he says, sitting up like a small bird in his top bunk, “I just have the feeling stuck in my head that the lightening can strike and kill me. “ I can’t see his eyes, but I know they’re huge; red rimmed from allergies, lashes so long they get crisscrossed when he rubs them.

I’ve been in class since one; in meetings since eight this morning. I’ve had a cumulative fourteen hours of sleep in the past three days. There are circles under my eyes; I haven’t exercised; deadlines still defining every waking hour.

I hear him sniffle, rub his nose, squirm under the covers, his thin torso still propped up on an elbow. I can see his silhouette: he’s watching the window, even though the shades are shut.

I want to snap at: Stop being silly. You’re fine. Go to sleep. I want to plunk the little one into his crib instead of holding him in my lap, rocking as he squirms around, not settled either, also anxious about the storm that has arrived suddenly, just as T drove off for a meeting. I can feel the impatience thick on my tongue.

Instead I take a breath. I zero in. I let the breath expand the place where my ribs join; let my love for these two boys flood me like the storm.

“It’s okay," I say softly. "I’m right here. Mama will be right here,” and then I begin to whisper, “Shush, shushhhhhh.”

And the lightening comes, the thunder comes, the sky grows dark, darker. The windows pelt with rain, and I rock and whisper and then begin to softly sing Brahms’ lullaby, until I can feel Sprout’s body soften, his hair suddenly damp and warm with the onset of sleep. And I keep singing.

I keep singing as the lightening lights up the room, once, twice, six times, twelve. I lose count and keep singing until I can hear Bean settle, curling like a small animal in his covers. I sing until they are breathing in time, steadily, evenly, with the sweet magic of sleep.