Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stale Air: Denial - Part One

A still morning begins to illuminate the bedroom through the red, semi-sheer curtained window. With half-cast eyes, I look beside me to find a pair of gentle, sleeping eyes on my little boy's face. His small features are perfectly framed by dark curly hair, matted on each side from turning in his sleep. This was our first.. I try not to remember the way I would trace the similarities between our son and he, which seemed more striking to me as they slept beside each other on our family bed. Trying not to stir the little breathing body on the big bed, I roll out and sneak into the living room mess of last night. The shadow of dust that missing furniture leaves behind, mixes with baby toys, and defines the first puzzle. I sit at the couch and look at the quiet empty walls of a now spacious living room. I design, and redesign in my mind, the placement of furniture that is left. I try to let the freshness of a more open space come over me, save the empty and dusty drafting table left behind that seemed like a mismatch against the rest of the scene. The stubborn memory of last night's transition keeps finding it's way into my different layouts, but I don't let the thought drag. I rush into the kitchen to grab a broom. I move the drafting table closer to the exit way of the living room, leaving space enough only for a small person to move in and out of the hallway. I pick up and dust off the jingling toys and throw them into the playpen, and begin to sweep. I continue designing the new living room in my mind, this time with a lavender scented clean floor. The dust particles gather at the soles of my feet. I rub the dust off of one foot, onto the top of the other, and the particles feel abrasive against the thin skin. The wood on the floor looks thirsty without the chaos covering its face. The sound of an abandoned baby makes me throw the broom back in its place and almost run towards the bed. He stops crying when he sees me, and I ask him, "you wanna help mama move some furniture?" He responds by rubbing his eyes with his fists, and then crawls toward the edge of the bed when I approach him. I pick him up and lay him on the changing table, wondering if there are ways I could move things around in the bedroom too. I think to myself, "one puzzle at a time." After changing his diaper, he looks to see where we are headed as I carry him into the living room. The floor is too cold for his bare feet, and the project is too dangerous for a tumbling toddler, so I place him among his toys in the playpen. He stands and watches as I try to organize, and reorganize the book and paper scattered rectangular table I call my desk, the soft beige couch that was delivered to us just about a week before he was born, and the toy cluttered playpen he is standing in. The desk is now tucked into the corner of the space by the heater that sits underneath the windowsill. The playpen becomes the center of entertainment against the longest wall and directly across from the kitchen opening. After trying different walls, the couch is back at the old wall beside the desk, except a small side table is placed at the front of the right end. I put a placemat and a few books illustrating African masks on the small table to add a homey touch. The sun hasn't climbed high enough to illuminate the empty corner where his desk used to be. I've reserved that space for the round table we used to eat in, when we weren't at the couch watching a movie or one of our downloaded shows from his computer screen. The table is top-heavy and difficult to maneuver outside of the kitchen entrance. I try lowering it on it's side, slowly, careful not to slam it onto my toes. My son looks on with a serious pair of eyebrows and I wonder if he notices the seemingly odd placement of the table, in a corner that had occupied a third of our family for long silent hours. He begins to get restless, and I try with a happy voice, to list and detail everything I'm doing as I move across the living room. He listens and interrupts with syllables that don't quite make out words, but I've convinced him that we're conversing somehow. The sound of the stick end of the mop hitting the floor incites a loud giggle, bursting from the playpen. I look at his four-toothed smile with a grin of my own and slam the mop again on the floor. The sound of his giggle makes me wonder how I will redraw a future for him that continues to incite that sound. The sight of the mop's soapy tresses against the dry floor keeps him engaged, as I push the dirt away from the crevices of the wood and quench the floor's thirst.

The smell of lavender reminds me of the oil I once held to my nose to relieve the ulcer pains I suffered throughout the last months of my pregnancy. The pain would hit at night, beginning with a burning stomach, lifted and squeezed to give way to our growing son. The burn traveled into the right side of my back, resulting in tears, and sometimes shortened my breath. I'd shift my heavy body onto the edge of our bed and slowly make my way into the bathroom to hang my face over the toilet bowl. The bathroom light would make him turn toward the wall, and there he would stay unless I woke him up, begging to rub my back to allow the food to come up quicker. Sometimes he gave it a short rub, without sitting up completely, and turned back around. Other times I didn't want to be reminded that he had so little to give, and I would open my bottle of lavender oil, lift it toward my tearing face, and try to bring the cold, “s” shaped, metal self massager around my swollen belly.

I realize that I've been aggressively jerking the mop around when I'm done, and my lower-back feels strained. I look at the scene, and it's not exactly what I drew in mind, but it would have to do, for now. The kitchen is next, and I have some ideas in mind, but the thought of taking on another mission seems too exhausting, and my little boy is getting bored of the mop. I plan instead to give him a bath while I shower before dressing us up, and take on a more festive family occasion, preferably, outside of the apartment.

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