Night Duty

Ayla’s feet tucked under her upside-down-heart-shaped butt while she kneels in the bathtub in front of the faucet, lapping up water from the cold trickle I’ve left running for her.

I ignore her for part of the bath, playing games on my phone, variously feeling guilty and justified with my behavior. I’ve been with her all day, so a break for tongue-lolling-out time is deserved. On the other hand, it’s not the first time I’ve ignored her today, for video games or other reasons.

I eventually break from the phone’s magnetic hold, like a junked car breaking away from the giant magnet that spells its doom/new-life. And I watch her talking to her rubber baby bath toy, telling it to sit and saying other things that make little sense to me.

When common sense and the clock tell me it’s time to empty the bath and get the most important human being in the world to bed, I flick down the drain switch and sing the clean up song. She doesn’t notice (or doesn’t care), and keeps on playing long after the water’s gone. Adults never hang out in empty bathtubs. Only children.

Then I hoist her up on my lap in a towel and comb her ridiculously beautiful hair for a long time, being pointlessly thorough. I enjoy looking at her, even at the back of her head, and she’s not squirming.

We read several books several times, and then I catch her stubbornly rubbing her eyes. She knows she’s tired but tries to hide it. So I scoop her up and place her in bed with three pacifiers surrounding her. She samples each one, rotating (I think) to get the freshest. I pat her back, her legs extended long behind her as she lies on her stomach, toes pointed slightly inward, her right heel swaying rhythmically.

“Song?” She says, pushing up on her forearms. It’s late August; the sun is going down earlier and earlier, leaving something like dream-light coming through the sheer white curtains. I sing until she falls asleep.

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