I tuck the waterproof pad into the back couch cushions, wedging it tightly. It crinkles, perhaps in protest, or maybe just groaning in solidarity. I lay the waterproof cover on the floor, securing it tightly under the couch to protect the carpet. I put a clean, soft blanket on the couch. Position the bucket just so.
Dark circles and I shuffle slippered feet into the kitchen. Squirt squirt the Clorox Clean-Up, wipe it all down. Rinse. Repeat. Same pattern with the door handles, light switches, bathrooms. I give many thanks to Clorox Wipes.
I created a make-shift, easy-to-wash bed on the guest room floor, since I’ve no interest in cleaning vomit that could catapult from the loft bed.
The washing machine swish-swishes, dryer clink-clinks. We go to sleep, him on the floor, me in the guest bed. Side-by-side in our bunker.
At 3 am, at 4 am, at 5 am the calls come from the floor, piercing tentative sleep. I squat down, rub his hot back, push the hair from his eyes. Grabbing for the bucket as I whisper love into the dark, a constant thread. I’m so sorry. Oh sweet love. It’s OK. Promises of the future, perhaps, but really of no consolation now.
“Can I just have a bath?” he asks, two hot-points of red, beacons on his grey face. I help him climb into the tub, worried that after three days of no food, he may slip, fall, concussion, thoughts swirl in cloaks of anxiety as they do in the dark.
I perch on the toilet, bent elbow and hand hold up my weary head. Why is my head so heavy? His fingers move just enough to splash the water gently against the tub’s sides. Soft light filters from the small recessed light above.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
He climbs out, all angles and bones. I wrap the white towel around his hot, small frame. He turns his back to me and plops himself into my lap. I wrap my arms around and inhale the soap, the scent of his Clorox-washed towel, him. He burrows in.
“I love you, Mommy.”
“Oh sweetie. Oh my love. I love you, too.”