Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 14, 2007 | ,

Her room has become a place of menacing noises. In the half-darkness imposed by the security lights outside, I come in and she off-handedly tells me she no longer wants a dog, but a mouse instead. Half an hour later she is still awake, afraid. Now there are mice scurrying around her room. The sky at night is always orange. Even the empty prairies of Detroit are lit by streetlights that have not yet broken or been stripped of their copper wire, a hopeful remnant grid of utilities that belie the existence of any actual neighborhood. Darkness is never her bedtime fear, but always noise. When I ask her about any bad dream, it was inevitably a "loud, loud noise," and when pressed she'll imitate a siren, or a car alarm. Whenever one of us leaves the struggle in her room at bedtime, the chorus starts behind the door, and then the other one goes up a few minutes later to try their luck. This time it might be a demand for one more song, or a tree that is scratching her window. We take turns, like blacksmiths at an anvil, trying to calm her with stories of fairies and pandas, old songs, and long, whispered shhhhhhs while stroking her hair. The whimpering starts again whenever we shift, knowing too well that our every motion is bent towards the door. After an hour or so of this we might get some silence, and then sigh, "She's slept through the night for almost a year," Wood will say. "Why this now?"

"We've grown soft," I'll reply. "Remember how bad it was?"

But then the wailing resumes, and from that fleeting moment of solidarity, all that's left is frustration. And because there is nowhere else left to turn, we turn on each other. When the kid is finally asleep, Wood goes to bed without speaking to me. So I sit alone listening to the same song over and over, too angry to do anything. Sometimes I'm sure I have no idea what I'm doing, no lodestar here in the never-darkness of Detroit. I fear that am fucking her up and failing both of them in ways I cannot even imagine. I am no good. I suddenly crave untethered selfishness. I don't want to be responsible for anyone. I don't want to go back into that room. I don't want to tell another story. I don't want to fight with my wife again tonight. I don't want to end this with some pithy observation that despite all this, parenthood is worth it. Not today. Because even if that is true, sometimes it can be so hard, too. And I need to acknowledge how terrified I am of going through it all again.