Darkness is shining in through both of my bedroom windows when I finally retire for the evening. Bryce is already in her crib, sound asleep while my wife sits in the dark manually breast pumping. I just hear a squish-squish-squish noise as a I navigate over mounds of laundry and sharp furniture.
I set my book down with a thud, I set my phone down with a tink and I set my clothes down with a sluff, my belt latch hitting the wood with a piercing ting! I look up and Jade is staring at me – squish, squish, squish – and says, “Could you make any more noise? And, with completely impeccable comedic timing, I fart.
For reasons unknown to me, I’ve been nursing a Monster Energy Drink for the past two hours and now, preparing to lie down, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to sleep. I’ve been sitting on the couch for the past hour reading The Wizard of Oz, hoping to bring on The Drowsies but to no avail. I crawl into bed… my head hits the pillow… who am I fooling? I dream about things both vague and nonsensical; things that make no logical reason in the waking world. People I know play new roles in my dreams; my boss is my cousin, ex-girlfriends are my boss, South Dakota is Los Angeles. I accept it all without question.
A shriek pierces through the dream clouds and I look towards the sky… open my eyes… I’m in bed. The baby is crying. Panic shoots from my brain to my heart and out my limbs. I throw the blankets back and sit up, completely positive that something horrible is happening but completely positive that I have no idea what it is or how to remedy it. Everything is moving slow and stupid, myself included. Instead of turning on the light I just sit in the dark and stare at my toes trying to decide what my next move should be.
Jade says, “Are you going to get the baby?” and I say, with just a hair too much anger in my voice, “Yes. Yes, of course I’m going to pick up the baby. You think I’m just going to sit here and let it cry?” and she says, “Let her cry. She’s a girl,” and I look down at my hands, still unsure about just what is going on. I’m stuck in that horrible, horrible, terrible place where I’m not asleep but not awake, where hallucinations are possible and everything feels like you’re floating along in a drug induced coma.
Jade says, “JOHN,” with just a hint too much anger in her voice and I say, “Lay off! I have no idea what’s happening!“ and I sit up and pick up the baby, stand up, set her on the changing table. I unwrap her swaddle, unbutton her pajamas, pull out her feet, prep the new diaper, prep the wipes and open the old diaper. This is the part that’s always like the worst game show of all time for parents. What’s behind door number two?! It’s……. JUST A BUNCH OF PEE!
Not tonight. Tonight is a smear of yellow dookie that looks like someone power sneezed it into a Kleenex. I wipe, clean, dry, replace old diaper with new diaper, put the squirming legs back in the pajamas, button them up, set the baby in the swaddle, take the left side over the right and then the right side over the left, tying her up in some weird cloth burrito that seems to me to be a complete claustrophobic nightmare but the baby seems to love it.
I hand her to Jade, turn and head to the kitchen to throw away the diaper and then to the bathroom where I pee and wash my hands.
Back in the room I’m sitting on the edge of the bed and Jade says, “She’s asleep. Here. Take her. Be gentle. Don’t wake her,” and so I take Bryce from her and, instead of placing her back in the crib, I just hold her in my arms and bounce her and stare at her and say, “Jade… it’s absolutely incredible that your recipes are so…” and the other words I’m about to say are, “widely used in the land of Oz,” but I stop myself because I realize that this is somehow wrong and ill-timed and not meant for this world and just what is happening in my brain?
Jade says, “What?” and, me, still convinced that the first half of that sentence is a fairly factual statement and, thinking I can somehow slide by the fact that I have no idea what is happening I say, “Your recipes, babe. Your recipes. It’s incredible that they’re so…” and she says, “What are you talking about? Put the baby down. Shut up. Go to sleep,” and I set Bryce down in her crib and then suddenly, a darkness lifts from my vision and I can see the world around me. I say, “Jade,” and she says, “Yes?” and I say, “I’m really sorry. I’m really tired. I have no idea what I’m saying right now,” and she says, “Why are you so tired?” and then I get panicky because maybe my brain is still screwed up. I say, “Because… it’s 3am. That’s normal, isn’t it?”
I just don’t know anymore.
ABOVE: BRYCE IMITATES THE POPE.
The Baby is sleeping. I lie on my back and pull the covers up to the bottoms of my eyeballs. I turn on my side, then my other side, then my stomach and Jade says, “Can you make any more noise?” and then, with impeccable comedic timing, Bryce farts so wet and loud that she wakes herself up. She farts again and I would bet that it’s really more of a shart. She sharts again and that diaper is full. I shut my eyes, but not to sleep. It’s more in that resigned way that one might do after accidentally sending an email to a person who isn’t suppose to receive it because said email is full of insults you’ve written about them. You know it’s too late. You know it’s futile. You know you have to deal with the consequences.
I turn on my light and say, “Bryce, stop picking on me.”
Jade begins to snore.