I wake with an ache threaded through my jaw on one side. Its tight and hard to move. My mouth must have been hanging open, slack and slanted sideways under sleep that dragged me down too deep and pulled me to the surface too fast. That's the most dangerous way to dive.
I sit up and pull on my socks, first one and then the other. I open and close my mouth until the two sides even out and by the time I make it to the kitchen, my jaw is loose enough to let my lips form the shape of good morning. My voice catches, dry and unused and unfamiliar in my ears.
I am asymmetrical. There's no way to fold me so my edges line up.
Just look. My right eye is smaller than the left. I'm missing a rib on one side. One breast feeds my baby better than the other and when I sweat I swear my right armpit smells stronger. My waistline feels thicker on the right when I'm sitting and one foot is bigger than the other.
These imbalances are branded into my blueprint. But they don't bother me. I can still stand up straight.
With a handful of birdseed, we call the chickens back to their coop. She laughs as they run toward us, moving fast and low and ridiculous.
They look so funny, like they could just fall right over.
I agree. There's something about two legs and no arms and wings folded back that looks unbalanced. But their anatomy doesn't fail them and they can't hear us laugh.
I'm out for a walk -- baby in the sling, dog on the leash, everyone else at home. Silence moves through the trees and cools my cheeks. The spring air is damp in my lungs.
I pass a woman walking the other way and we exchange the usual smile and hello.
You have your hands full! she adds.
She has no idea. My arms and chest and head are so loaded with blessings that my spine bends under it all. I'm surprised she can't see that.
Or maybe that's what she meant.
The night she came is wrapped tightly in webs of memory. Some details melt together but other moments stand still, framed and flash frozen in my mind.
I walk through the door, my vision tunneled. I stop. I see only him.
She's sweeping my legs out from under me and I wrap my arms around his shoulders. I know I'm probably pressing against him too hard but he doesn't flinch. My forehead touches his shirt.
I breathe him in and he balances me.
Now his hand on my shoulder surprises me. That's where her head usually rests.
More than two voices aimed at me can shoot me down.
Milk on the floor brings me to my knees.
Making dinner is a mountain.
He tells me I should go to yoga class but I don't feel like it. A movie is too long and words on a page swim and blur before I can finish a chapter. This is the only thing I can write about. It's not time away that I need.
Their game is somewhat quiet. The baby is happy in her bouncy chair. I sit on the floor in the living room surrounded by them. The evening light dims.
He stands in the kitchen and the light above the sink holds him in a soft spotlight. His back is to me as he does the dishes. He talks.
What he says is ordinary. Everyday. But his voice walks across the room, threading together in strands that become solid, a ballet bar above my head. I reach up and find it, memorizing its position so I can find it tomorrow when all the lights are on and I'm trying to stand one foot, practicing balance.