I washed the
sheets with the darks today.They were
my son’s sheets—stark white flannel, with little raised footballs you can trace
with your fingertip.I imagine my son,
the many nights he has trouble falling asleep, rubbing his finger back and
forth, back and forth, along a football, imagining himself the winning
quarterback of Super Bowl LIV—or maybe a star receiver, catching the ball and
running into the end zone.
We were running
behind this morning. I stayed up late
last night reading a novel, telling myself, just
one more chapter, as I turned the pages well past .
I stuffed the sheets into the washing machine as my son got his Spiderman
backpack ready for preschool, tucking a picture of his letter of the day—S for shutters—neatly in the side
pocket, making sure he had his asthma inhalers and the picture he’d drawn for a
machine was only half full. I looked at
the laundry basket, overflowing with darks: inside out jeans, balled up socks,
wet towels. I could save a load if I
combined them. I shrugged, jammed them
in and slammed the door shut, before they could escape.
* * *
The school parking
lot is a symphony of little beeps as parents press the lock buttons on their
key chains in unison, protecting ourselves from one another, directed by an
invisible conductor named Fear.
We speak to those
we know, ignore those we don’t and secretly size up one another from the
corners of our eyes. Do they know? I wonder. Do they know that I washed the darks with the sheets?
We wait in line to
take our children to Room 9, eyes straight ahead, or cast to the ground,
perhaps focused intently on today’s art project displayed on the bulletin board
outside the classroom. We lovingly bid
our children goodbye, unlock our cars with the push of a button, start up the
engines in unison. And then we drive away.
At home, I close
my garage door, watching it slowly shut out the sky, the trees, the house
across the street, the wet surface of the road.
It shuts with finality, wood against concrete. I unlock the door and return to my laundry
basket. I spend the morning trying to reconcile
socks—divorced by a pair of pants, a sweatshirt, yes, even a football pillow
case has come between them.
I return to
school. I lock the car door, join the
other women already standing in line, arms tucked around purse straps, elbows
in to avoid jostling one another.
Through a bank of windows, we watch our children at play. Jack dashes over to hug Marissa. Julie kisses Peter. Mothers look at one another and tentatively
smile. I long for a needle, to pop the
little bubble of protection we’ve built around ourselves.
But the children
are called in and the moment is gone. I
pick up my son, drive home and make lunch.
Note: This was written several years ago, just after a job transfer.