twenty-six: all’s quiet
Two nights after her first dose of The Medicine, Dora and I sit on the couch watching Little House On The Prairie together and it dawns on me that something feels off.
It takes me a moment to home in on it: Dora is sitting completely still. As in sans movement.
As in no finger tapping, no leg jiggling, no couch gymnastics, and no intermittent cartwheels.
She is otherwise her normal self, talking back to that snitty little Nellie Olsen and laughing at Laura’s failed attempt to play Pa’s fiddle. She’s herself, except she isn’t because she remains seated, her leg calmly resting against mine, for the entire length of the program.
I’m afraid to move. It’s as if a hummingbird I’ve courted for years has finally landed at my side.
Later that same evening she lays calmly at my side through the entire bedtime story. There’s no need to remain braced for an impromptu somersault or an accidental limbshot to the face.
So this is what it’s like for other parents! I gotta admit, it’s a pret-ty nice universe you’ve got here.
That same night Dora falls asleep by herself in her own bed within fifteen minutes of lights-out. I immediately check her forehead and it is normal.
“It’s like her body is no longer forcing her to keep moving!” I say to David. Now it is my turn to flit about.
“My God! Imagine how awful it must be for her! Everyone telling her to sit still or calm down and just fall asleep already and here she’s fighting her own hardwiring, her own biology…”
Suddenly I stop flitting,“– Oh My God, David. She dealt with nine entire years of torture. Why didn’t we –”
But I stop myself here.
When I was a teenager I read a book about a boy who went missing. The boy had been playing with a few other kids at Sears and was kidnapped when his mother stepped away for a minute to find assistance. The main thing I remember about the story is this: that same afternoon, in the center of a swarm of police officers and endless questions, the mother made a conscious choice to never blame herself. In the book she says something like, I knew that if I let my mind go there I would be unable to live, so that afternoon I simply said ‘no’ to that line of thought.
I never knew why my adolescent brain tucked this little breadcrumb away, except maybe now I do. So I simply shut the door on the thought that I should have helped her sooner.
Not now, I tell the thought. Not ever.
David and I hardly know what to do with an entire hour to ourselves. We are nine years out of practice. For the first minute we just sort of revel in the moment, quietly reviewing the events of evening, like two people checking and re-checking a winning lottery ticket.
“Should we even dare to believe that — that it could be like this?” I ask.
“It’s still early days, honey,” David says, “Remember the doctor said it could take up to six weeks before we know whether it’s working.”
He’s right, of course. But still.
“Well something’s working,” I say.
“Plus,” he continues, “We’re technically not even at an efficacious dose. The doctor said to expect adjustments.”
This sort of buzzkill is why Science is never invited to parties.
“I guess,” I say, “I just have a gut feel that we’ve turned a corner. I think it only gets better from here.”
I will this to be true, even as the pending tornado kicks up more dust on the outskirts of town.