Between the boys being sick again and all the ice outside, I’ve been feeling kind of brittle recently. Summer feels a long, long way off and even my daily cup of tea isn’t giving the pleasure it used to. Perhaps that’s why last night I found myself descending into fantasy as I trekked down to Wally’s room where he was awake and crying, hot with fever.
Two nights ago Wally had also woken up sick. Then I’d gone down into his room with a bottle but when I’d sat him down to drink I realized his forehead was burning and his diaper was already nearly full. I carried him upstairs, rousted Caroline from bed for help, and a middle of the night scramble ensued to find a diaper, insert a Tylenol suppository, and then give the beseeching kid his drink.
So last night Caroline and I vowed to do better. Before we went to sleep we laid a diaper, a suppository, and a jug of water to refill Wally’s vaporizer on the kitchen counter. As I arranged our supplies I thought of an article I’d read earlier in the day about a daring bank robbery in Sydney, and I imagined myself a criminal mastermind meticulously laying the groundwork for a middle-of-the-night heist.
Wally awoke a little before 2am, right on cue; my feet were on the floor before he’d finished his first cry. Caroline and I moved downstairs with the precision of Navy SEALS. She took the suppository and the diaper, I grabbed the bottle and the jug of water.
Seconds later we breeched the door to Wally’s room. Caroline changed him and dosed him while I carefully but quickly removed the vaporizer’s hot top, poured the water in without a splash, and retreated to a position behind Caroline, where I waited for her to finish her work. My heart pounded as I counted the seconds. Five, six, seven. Why wasn’t she done yet? Finally I heard her zip Wally’s sleepsack. In one motion she stood up, handed him to me, and went for the door.
As she left I turned my body to block Wally’s view so he wouldn’t see his beloved Mama leave and I thought about how ingenious I was, like the incredible pickpocket magician featured in last week’s New Yorker, who uses his body in key moments to block his victim’s view while he extracts their treasure.
Now down on the floor, Wally leaning his hot head back against my chest, the bottle at his lips, I turned into the child whisperer. “Shh, shh,” I said to ease his fast-beating heart. I held his hand, kissed his head, readied him for a return to sleep. He drank four ounces, pushed the bottle away. My pulse quickened. If our plan was going to fail, this is where things would go wrong. Was he going to cough and vomit? I stood up and steadied him against my chest. He put his head against my shoulder. No coughing, no gagging, we were golden.
I walked him for a minute, but just as I was about to lay him in his crib I realized I didn’t know where I’d put the empty bottle. I couldn’t believe it. They always tell you: Put bottle in the same place every time, so you can pick it up quickly on your way out without making any extra noise. I strained in the dark to find it but I couldn’t see anything.
Ok, deep breath, don’t panic. If I was going to get out safely I’d have to improvise. Slowly I laid Wally down in his crib; he raised his head for a moment then slumped back down to sleep. I turned towards the door, afraid I was going to kick the missing bottle and ruin everything. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the faintest little glow, the vaporizer’s red light reflected off the glass bottle, which was sitting on the bookshelf. With one step I reached the bottle, grabbed it, pivoted on my left foot and stepped out the door, pulling it closed behind me: Mission accomplished.
Upstairs in bed Caroline was awake waiting for me. We high-fived, or kissed, or maybe just grunted at each other. I lay down, turned on my side, feeling flush with competence.
But just as I closed my eyes, a voice called out from the other room. “I need help going back to sleep.” It was Jay, who’d coughed himself awake.
Fuck, I thought. This I don’t have a plan for.