I twisted the knob but hesitated to open the door. His cries were strong, desperate. They weren’t the high-pitched squeals like a baby’s cry for milk or to have his diaper changed, but deep in his gut, a low, steady moan, like a dying man, as if he already knew, already sensed that his mother was gone and that sudden awareness was slowly killing him.
The front door slammed shut, startling me, and I quickly snatched my hand off the knob.
“Oh, Stephan’s crying,” he said and brushed past me into his room.
Stephan. His name was Stephan.
I lingered at the threshold and watched as he took the boy from the small Hot Wheels bed and rocked him.
He was much bigger than I had imagined. His feet dangled just past his father’s belt buckle. I couldn’t remember if he’d ever told me the boy’s age. There were only the pictures in his phone from when he and his ex were still together and living in Philadelphia. Stephan was only five or six months old then. Old enough to sit up, utter single syllables, and possibly even stand—if he held onto someone’s leg or a flattened cushion on the couch or the dulled corner of an end table—but not quite able to walk. He was still too top-heavy. His body needed time to grow into his head—time lost when his mother took him in the middle of the night and disappeared.
I wasn’t allowed to see Stephan when they moved in—the consequence of dating a man with a child and a selfish baby momma who could vanish without a trace. However, his baby pictures stayed with me. Even when I knew how fast children grew in a year, I still dreamt of him as a red-faced newborn wrapped in a blue blanket, wearing a blue cap on his head, and lying on my chest. I pictured the tiny little body that could fit snuggly in my arm—his head resting on my shoulder, his bottom in the crease of my elbow, his pudgy feet in the palm of my hand, where I could curl my fingers in and tickle the bottoms of his toes until he laughed so hard he passed gas.Continue reading “Motherhood | Buried Series | Part 7”