The Bathtub

I wrote this piece for my writing class. Spring of 2018.

I still get these feelings like I’m going to need to crawl out of my own skin. Like I can’t possibly be a person in this moment, in this skin. Like this body, this life didn’t work and I have to get out. I have to escape. I picture Mexico for a minute and wonder if I should take the kids or leave them with family for a week or two while I run away and slough off this skin on a balcony on the second floor right above a luscious pool with the gulf in view. How long would that take?

Oh, holy fuck. George (my fourteen year old cherub boy) was talking to me about physics again and I tuned out. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He used to stutter when he was 4 and 7 and 10. He is my child and needing me and I didn’t listen to the cool thing he made with magnets and screws and some words I heard in school but never cared about so I only remembered them for a test and not for real life. If I don’t listen, who will? And now my sweet handsome boy wants to tell me about gravity and mechanical energy and my skin can’t be on my body and I can’t escape myself and so I have to get in the tub.

I live in this house. I lie sleepless in my bed here. I cook frozen food here. I vacuum dog hair and cracker crumbs here. I am charged with the ultimate job of parenting these six children and yet I can’t focus long enough to breathe.

The relief of the tub never really comes. It is like my buying raffle tickets or clicking computer screens to enter to win the dream house on HGTV. It won’t work. The raffle ticket money and the contests I enter are an out of reach dream that I wish would satiate some of my needs. I will still be here with an empty suitcase and my crawling skin. I won’t win the lottery.  I imagine that the bath could provide relief. My baby Mim will hear the water running as I shed my clothes and she will get her head stuck in her shirt as she throws open the bathroom door. Eight year olds can dress themselves and bathe themselves and soothe themselves, but Mim needs me. She is developmentally disabled and she needs me more than other children need their mama. Some days she screams. Some days she huffs. Some days she slams the door. She wants in the tub. Clothes half on, she skims the floor and misses falling by an inch. I rise clumsily from the warm water and feel the cold air hit my dripping exposed self. I encourage and soothe and pull off her clothes that stick to my wet hands. Mim is ever close to mommy- just in case. What is mommy thinks of moving out when she doesn’t want to live here anymore? My baby is scared. Her daddy moved out. She confronts the idea that parents can leave. So she holds onto me tighter than ever. I consider that her worries go back further than our separation, back to her adoption. I have fleeting feelings of guilt that sail across my mind about adopted children need consistency and love. I would focus on this grief but my grief interrupts my guilt. And I need a bath, like an addict needs heroine, to get the skin to stop crawling and the panic to subside or the grief to wash away or my heart to stop pounding. We bathe together. She is all legs and bubbles. I am all grief and plaster myself to the back of the grainy porcelain. The tub isn’t deep enough to warm my chest. The bath is unsettling for my body- part hot, part cold, rough tub, slippery and angular Mim. After the bath, we lie down in our shared queen bed and I wait for her to stop squirming and biting her fingers. Her sensory system is similar to a child with autism and relaxing is out of reach. I wait for her body to find sleep after she inadvertently makes her little finger tips bleed and we negotiate bandaids and drinks of water and kissing the puppy. Her breathing finds a slow rhythm matching mine. Her body gives up after a long day of struggle.  And then when the alone that I hunted is right there in front of me, instead of retreating, instead of writing, instead of netflixing, I reach my hand under the covers and lift her pajamas with my lonely hands to feel the warmth of her radiating back. I stay right there. Feeling her warm skin. Satisfied that I gave this day. Satisfied that I know them best of all. That I am their mama. I have no regrets. I loved and I loved and I loved. My skin stopped crawling. The hot tears stream onto my new sheets. I got rid of the pink rosebud sheets that Chad and I had shared.


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