The night’s summer air was sweetly salted and warm like a goodnight hug from Mother Nature herself.
Dancing palms—Twins!—swayed to and fro in time with the song of the ocean breeze, rhythmically tapping the tips of their shadowy fronds against the edge of the bedroom balcony. Their boisterous beat punctuated the late night stillness with a youthful exuberance that seemed to indicate that they had no intention of quieting down for the night. Unfortunately for them, the same could not be said for the sea, which hid just beyond the palms’ dirt dancefloor.
From where I was propped up in bed, I could not be an eyewitness to the ocean’s nightly routine, but I could hear its every move. As if creeping along on tiptoe, the velvety waves rolled across the moonlit sand before hurriedly retreating back into its blackened depths. Back and forth. Back and forth. It was a seductive dance of its own, yet the more I listened, each step seemed to be spaced further and further apart— as though my mere listening had inspired the waves to slow to a coy whisper.
Meanwhile, perfectly hushed and thoroughly disinterested in its companions’ merrymaking, the sky oversaw everything. Clad in a dress of inky blackish-blue and dripping with strange, sparkling diamonds of a celestial variety, it was evident that the sky was the belle of the ball. Deeply contemplative, all-seeing, and darkly mysterious, it seemed to be silently watching over (and judging) everything going on below it— even us.
Ah, yes… us.
Despite the apparent restlessness of the palms and the ocean, our bedroom and its peaceful inhabitants were more than prepared for the day’s end. The television, which had long since been muted, continued to flash colorful scenes from a child’s cartoon show and keep us company. It was this same bright light that kept us from being plunged into complete darkness. As it was, we were already encumbered enough without not being able to see in our own home.
Pristine, mountainous folds of silken white coated every inch of our canopied four-poster bed, causing our legs and torsos to vanish from view. The situation behind us was barely any better, unless having one’s head swallowed up by a row of pillowy marshmallows could be seen as ideal or desirable. But come to think of it, I hardly felt compelled to complain about our comforting plight. True, we were buried beneath mounds of bedding as if we were just one of the many buttery layers of a freshly baked croissant, but I was in such good company that no one could have faulted me for being content right where I was.
Still, the risk of getting swept beneath the current of our billowing bedsheets was a constant reality.
I still remember having to briefly fight my way to a more upright position. Taking notice of my struggle, you turned towards me and smiled. Your boyish grin stopped me in mid-flail, causing me to retreat from battle and resign to simply turn over on my side to face you. Our eyes met momentarily, and my heart nearly stopped. As I looked at you and you looked at me, the whole world froze in place. Surely, I had seen you before, seen you a hundred—No!—a thousand times before. But yet, as our eyes met, and the butterflies threatened to burst free from my stomach, I felt so… blessed.
Rest assured, it had nothing to do with your appearance— although I shall always esteem you as being among the ranks of Zeus and Apollo. Oh, it was so much more, so much deeper than all of that! Your quiet intensity and whole manner of being has this delectable way of enrapturing me. So, as you regarded me in that moment, I was intoxicatingly aware that I—of all the people in the world—had somehow managed to find my perfect match. You were mine and I was yours.
The sheer gravity of our shared providential luck hit me square in the chest as I examined your sweet face… as if I’d never realized it before. You seemed to have acknowledged it at the same time, causing you to shyly avert your eyes. Still brimming with loving pride for you, I followed the trajectory of your gaze to locate the new object of your attention.
To this very day I cannot say that I was left feeling any less fortunate or overwhelmed by unbridled joy at that time.
There, caught betwixt her two flustered and blushing parents, was the little princess. Scarcely a day over three, her tiny pink pajama-clothed frame was curled into a deeply drowsy ball of adorable. Without so much as a fluttering open of her thickly eyelash-lined eyes, she let out a precious yawn, before rolling over and succumbing to slumber once more. At this, our eyes met in acknowledgement.
You see, we had a serious problem and we knew it. Against our pre-parental plans and far beyond our better judgment, we had somehow decided (quite unanimously) that it would be a “brilliant” idea to allow the princess to get into our bed at night.
Some nights, she wished to invite one (or five) of the pets up into the bed with us, while other nights, she’d pack along one to ten of her favorite stuffed animals or dolls. Sometimes she wore pajamas with frilly ballerina or mermaid motifs, but there were other times when she preferred pajamas featuring planets and stars. And let’s not forget the ones with the dinosaurs printed on them!
Sometimes the princess only stayed in our bed until bedtime, but more often than not, we’d find ourselves giving in to her large Bambi eyes, which begged for another ten minutes. But no matter what she wore or who she invited to join us, we always—and I mean always—ended up watching cartoons. Lucky for her, we never minded. In fact, we loved them.
Looking down at the princess, your eyes became uncommonly shiny.
“Can you believe we made this?” you asked. “Us!”
I didn’t respond. All I could do was observe our sleeping handiwork in all of her glory.
Indeed, it was hard to believe that we had managed to create someone so unspeakably beautiful. She looked exactly like an angel, and she had a happy, vibrant personality to match. Sure, she was equally as beautiful during the day, but it was so much easier to marvel over her while she slept. Perhaps this was our favorite thing about letting her fall asleep with us.
When she wasn’t busy talking a mile a minute, running through the house singing like a madwoman, or begging her dad for her millionth “horsey ride”, we could get her to stay still just long enough to wonder whose eyes or whose nose she had inherited. Of course, it never truly mattered where our little princess’ individual features came from. What truly mattered to us was how in love we were with her.
As we watched her sleep atop her cloud of white between us, we surely couldn’t help but consider everything it had taken to bring her into the world. It had not been the easiest journey, but it had all been worth it.
Our little princess was everything I’d ever hoped for—the living, breathing victory of all victories. But as I gently ran my hand across her head of soft chestnut curls, I could vividly remember the times I had wondered if she’d ever be possible. If I could ever hope to meet a man as brave and accomplished as her father. If I could ever become the woman I had grown to be. There had been so many dark nights, so many disappointments. I’d encountered countless opportunities to tuck tail and give up, but yet, there I was.
I suddenly looked up at you and was surprised to lock eyes with you a third time. I’m not sure if it was the awe-struck expression upon my face or the solitary tear rolling down my cheek. Perhaps it was my inability to speak or the slight trembling of my hand. Whatever it was, you were wonderful enough to understand exactly what I was feeling and thinking back to.
“We made it.” you whispered, softly.
Desperately holding back the urge to cry, I finally nodded and replied, “We did… We did.”
This was the single best memory of my entire life. If I could have been given the chance to push pause on life and never be able to create a single new memory, I would have gladly asked for the pause button.
I’ll never forget that night for as long as I live, and even though it has been awhile, I’ve never forgotten a single detail. Not a sound. Not a smell. Not even the chill that coursed down my spine any time you spoke. I remember everything down to the floorboards, the thread count, and the color of the curtains.
When I didn’t think I could keep going, I remembered.
When I wanted to tap out for good, I remembered.
When I felt all hope was lost, I remembered.
It kept me going when nothing else could. It kept me alive like no one else would.
It’s been, what? Seven years now? Seven years. That single memory has kept me hoping, wishing, and praying for seven. long. years.
But that’s not even the craziest part.
The real kicker is: It never happened.
© C.M. 2020 All Rights Reserved
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