“MOOOOOOOOOOOOM, my ponytail is stuck in my hair,” Esmé yells from the dining room table. Esmé, I think, that is your name and yet it sounds as though it is a foreign country I may have learned about in geography when I was twelve. “La, la, la, la, la, la, la,” I sing in my head to assuage the noise. Zaid, sitting on the living room floor out of my sight-line, struggles with something of which I am vaguely aware. Grunts and groans of frustration echo into the kitchen. Ophelia sits at the dining room table across from Esmé with a heaving sigh that demands some task, some answer, at best some nonverbal cue that she has my attention.
For some reason tonight, their needs do not sway my loyalties to the dishwasher and the very important task of unloading it. I somehow feel torn but just need one……. more……..second. Only then will I relinquish my freedom for the 407th time today. Who are they and how did they get here, I think in wonderment. I blinked my eyes and they were here, inhabiting my house, my brain, my every waking moment like they did when they were unknown beings growing inside my body. Four times. Four…..four?
I methodically start on the silverware in my self-induced trance. My only affect is the act of not being affected at all. That is my role for these moments. I force myself to be conscious of the smoothness of the tines on a fork as I run my fingers up to the points, then tap my index finger slowly: one, two, three, four. I stare for just a moment, over their heads at some faraway place. Plates: I want to feel the warmth of the smooth ceramic against my palm. This is my play, I am actress and director, they will not cry “cut,” not yet.
On borrowed time, my independence and alone time will be over. But even thinking about this finale is an assault on my senses….I must get back, I focus with a new urgency. This is my refuge, my salvation. My livelihood is now dependent on this, this one thing that is mine. My focus refreshed, I continue with my task; I wrap my hand around another drinking glass, its perfect cylindrical curve within my hand; I intently listen to the clinks and thuds as I stack glasses and then push them to the back of the cabinet. I bring a large warm mason jar to my breast and let it rest until I can feel the warmth through my shirt. I slide the pads of my fingertips around its ridges, feeling the lines of demarcation, slowly, purposefully. I clutch the jar at my breastbone for a second more and then set it on the counter next to the other dishes that need putting away.
Mindfulness is inevitably ending; marching orders must be given. There will be homework, teeth-brushing, hand-washing, covers drawn, and goodnight kisses. There may yet be bargains and buts and rebuttals, but there will be my presence again, I know. And, cut.