She breathes her warm, milky breath into the underside of my right cheek. In the past few minutes, she has been busy nudging her head on my shoulder a few centimeters to the left and then to the right. And then she starts the search all over again. Normally, she would push my head aside with a surprising force from her own crown. Tonight, though, her attempts at locating her sweet spot on me to rest herself is gentler.
With her body lying on mine and her feet tucked within my arms, I rock Nora in the glider that Danith and I purchased three years ago. As I sway our one-month-old daughter to sleep I look out across the dark room, through the opened blinds, and at the night beyond it. Our home is situated on a hill, so I can see the lights in the valley. I know what this chair signifies. I know, too, what the crib that it sits beside signifies. It has been a long 14-year path, and I am fortunate to finally be sitting down.
But I have not forgotten. A late night such as this used to be deafening lonely, the silence of it speaking of no hope. I would listen to the humming of the air conditioner and the oncoming train on the tracks three miles away, and the world couldn’t have been emptier. But even though I felt alone, I knew that I wasn’t. I was not alone in my aloneness, unfortunately. As I am cuddling Nora I let my mind find the friends whom I made after the passing of Daffy and then Kiri. Through written words only, we shared our hearts with no shame or regret. At the beginning, we regularly spoke about the unfairness of it all; then we seldomly brought up that word again. Fair? Trying to make sense of that idea became trite and infuriating, so I refrained from speaking it. But I have been thinking about that word lately. When I stay up late to listen to Nora purr in her sleep or when I watch her gazing at me in the morning, possibly negotiating in her budding mind who I am, I think about fair.
Nora has grown unsatisfied with her position. She lets out a soft yelp. Even in the darkness of the nursery, I can make out her features. Right now she is pursing her lips, exhaling a milky breath, and is pushing on my head as though it is a nuisance. I don’t make a sound, and allow my body to go limp, letting her use me as she sees fit. She wriggles herself down my chest and slides her head off my shoulder and south to my collarbones. She scrunches herself into a fetal position, her torso in the shape of a C. I picture her this way before she came into this world to me. As I am beginning to caress her back, I am melting. I am filled with so much gratitude that I am aching. I want to cry out. I press my hand into her purple pajamas with the white bunnies, feeling the tenderness and warmth of her skin underneath. I run my fingers in a circle on the back of her head. I squeeze each of her feet, imagining sucking on each one. I smell her face, the milky breath now reminiscent of a boxed cake mix. I want to hold my daughter, and this moment, forever. I know I am lucky. I know I am fortunate. But for a fleeting moment, my mind wanders back to my friends who are still trying and friends who have valiantly surrendered, and I want to tell them that I have not forgotten: it is not fair at all.