Pillows Apart

Lindsey Harding

Can I have another hug? Mother, may I? I tuck you in at night—almost nine, so not quite ten, not quite two hands, not quite halfway gone. I think of fractions of you, shards of time of touch, the body an abacus. Already your sleeping frame blankets three-fifths of the bed, already your mouth filled with ninety percent new teeth. When you leave, I will feel a quarter empty.

Will you forgive me, daughter? You ask me to read with you in bed tonight—you, the devourer of books. Together, just ten minutes, more or less. But I say no, not tonight, for reasons like dishes sitting sink-side and dinner-crusted or else and always laundry wrinkling in baskets or else the baby stirring in his swing or else just to sit a moment and anyway, it doesn’t seem like much. We have years.

Let’s try tomorrow. Tomorrow we will. Until we don’t and we don’t and we don’t and I think that maybe it is something—something I’m missing, something I want for us to have, these ten minutes. The calculus of your departure haunts me. For tomorrow you’ll be 18 and 25 and 32, and we’ll be in bed reading, states between us, pillows apart, books open and pages to turn.