I love to lie in bed and squish my fingers deep into my eyes until the colors burst and the black grows tendrils. I do it when I think I can't sleep. I do it in church whenever they talk about heaven. I do it when Matt tells me I'm rubber and you're glue times infinity. It's the infinity that's behind the blackness when I rub. I do it when I imagine the darkest it could be.
Tonight I do it because I wake up and have to pee. The house is silent. The only sounds are from outside- crickets chirping the summer night's temperature. Normally, I call out "mom," quietly first. Then louder and louder, adding syllables "MA-ahm!" Until she comes and I pad down the hall barefoot to the bathroom where I pee without turning any lights on, rinse my hands and reverse my steps back to bed. I fall right back to sleep. This night, though, I push on my eyelids. The fireworks alight and I decide not to call out. A thief, I sneak down the hall. I stop and listen at the end of the hallway where the bathroom and my parents' doors are. I hear my father snore, long inhale, click, stop, razzing exhale. They don't wake up. This is nothing short of miraculous. I pull my panties down and my nightgown up. I hold it and twirl it around my forearms as I tinkle. I reach up and turn on the cold water, rinse my hands, dry them and go back to bed.
I did it.
The next day, I'm wearing pink panties with ruffles on the butt. I'm supposed to wear them under my Sunday dress but I beg to wear them now. My mom yields. Happily, I prance around in them before heading down to play.
I stand at the top of the stairs, open the door, and inhale deeply through my nose. This is the smell of home. The humidifier and old indoor outdoor carpet. The midwest earth filtered through new nostrils. With full lungs, I race down the stairs and across the basement floor to the shelves. I sit down in front of them and survey the low shelves for toys.
I've been playing for a long time. Long enough to hear the dehumidifier whirring and then clunking off, then shrugging into service again, several times over. I feel the pinch and squeeze. Squeeze harder. The feeling passes and I return to my game.
I remember sitting in the blue booster seat, the plastic getting sweaty and slippery and wiping it off. I remember the shelves were plywood stacked on top of each other with bricks for pillars. I remember sitting on the cold basement floor. I remember the smells of the laundry room wafting out. I remember the sound of the news on TV whether my dad was actually sitting there watching or not, but he likely was. I remember knowing I was supposed to stop playing to go potty.
A wave of the feeling comes again and I squeeze. Again, it passes and I can return to stacking my rubber blocks. Making shelves and putting toys on them. The toys are talking to each other, since the boy has gone to sleep. I tell them he will love them all, not just the velveteen rabbit. When the feeling comes again. It is coming more frequently now. The concentration and squeezing to stop it is harder each time. I should go upstairs and go potty, I think. But I never have this much fun playing. So I squeeze and squeeze and squirm to squeeze harder than I can. My mom calls down to remind me to go potty. I say I will. I squeeze and hold my breath to keep it in check. I keep playing. I promise myself, in just a minute, I'll go.
I try to stand up but stop to squeeze so it won't come out. I sit back down so I can rock and hold it in better. I rock and rock, squeezing and playing. I can't stand up now. I have to go too badly. I hope for a solution. It comes eventually.