31 Pleasant Avenue

Age and Beauty, by Olivia Arnold

Image published in Signet 2017

   
(Nonfiction from the 2017 edition of Signet Literary Magazine)
     It’s been weeks and you still haven’t slept through the night. Instead, you lay awake and listen to the regular rhythm of sound coming from the baby monitor. The tick, tick, tick of the clock in his nursery comes through and your mind begins to wander. 
     You remember pulling into the gravel driveway of the house before construction had finished. The small home had a strong foundation and a sturdy body and your remember posing for a photo where the bay window overlooking the front yard would be. You’ve spent many days looking out of that window, but you don’t think about that right now. You just continue listening to the tick, tick, tick.  
     The baby monitor sits on your night stand next to your alarm clock. It’s morning now and your husband has already left for work. You get out of bed and walk into your son’s nursery across the hall, sitting in the rocking chair beside his crib. The tick, tick, tick is louder now, and you look towards the wall where it hangs and watch the second hand move around and around and around again.  
     You remember being pregnant while you worked as a server at the Pizza Hut on Route 211. For months, you watched your belly grow bigger and bigger, and serving pizzas seemed impossible on your swollen feet. At night, you’d lay in bed and rest your feet and on those lucky nights, you’d feel the life inside of you move around. Soonyou thought. I’ll meet you very soon. 
     He was born in December and you had to bundle up his little body in four layers just to make sure the cold wouldn’t touch his skin. While it snowed outside, he slept soundly in his room. On those cold night, you sat in the rocking chair you sat in now, listening just the same.You remember the first time you heard him giggle in his sleep. You remember being happy.
     From your chair you can hear the rain’s tap, tap, tap against the window in the room.You look towards the crib and think of your son. You are my sunshine, my only sunshineYou make me happy when skies are gray. Despite the gray light coming from the window, the room is full of color. You remember the friends and family at your baby showerand coming home to find a place for all their gifts. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.  
     Your mind drifts. You remember the phone call, the panic, the hospital room. The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms. Once again, you remember. You remember the first night you laid in bed without a baby to take home and the urgency to turn the baby monitor on anyway so you could hear the clock’s tick, tick, tick. Every night since, you’ve laid in bed trying to forget that you’re not a mother anymore.
     When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken. So I hung my head, and I cried.
 
  
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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.