I placed my son, screaming with colic, into his crib and walked away. I let the screen door slam behind me and found a spot on the front porch steps. If it’d been five years earlier I would’ve slipped a Marlboro Light from a paper pack and watched the smoke swirl in front of my face, white tendrils coiling, hypnotizing me.
I’d given up that habit, traded it in for a runner’s high and bad tv.
Inside my baby was red-faced and howling. At 2 months old I hadn’t seen his smile, hadn’t heard his laugh, didn’t know this child. He screamed. He nursed. He drew his muscles tight like a prize fighter preparing to strike.
Outside there was street noise. The couple next door fought in their garage. A dog barked. The birds sang.
Life went on.
Eventually I’d take a breath and walk back in, across the living room cluttered with unmatched socks and magazines, to that first floor room with the writhing boy.
Eventually I’d take him in my arms again, into that mother’s muscle memory dance of pat-and-sway.
Eventually he’d fall asleep.
Eventually the crying stopped. The boy emerged (I fell in love).
But there are times I still need to walk away.
Some days closing my bedroom door is like coming up for air. It’s an act of survival.
I fill my lungs with quiet before diving in headfirst again.
I search the ridges in my view for smoke that rises higher and higher still before slowly disappearing into the gray.
Photo Credit: ezioman/Flickr