by Robert James Russell
And here she is, in the night, in this house not her own, sneaking and creeping in the dark, her hair pulled tight into a ponytail, makeup smeared on her cheeks, wearing her husband’s Detroit Lions sweatshirt, the one she kept after he left, her breath smelling of Cool Ranch Doritos and Wild Turkey, her pegged jeans and Keds causing her silhouette to take on comical proportions.
She moves past the couch and stares at a family portrait, all of them wearing turtlenecks with gelled hair done up, faces smiling and eyes wide. And here she is, the intruder, the one who doesn’t belong, creeping and sneaking, starting up again, opening drawers and rummaging through newly-stained cabinets, thumbing through stacks of hardcopy books on ornate shelves, pondering the meaning of the titles, wondering what it might be like to read one herself someday cover to cover.
She thinks upstairs is even fancier, and as she treads she’s careful not to leave a mark of herself behind, not a hair, nothing to let them know who’s been here this night. Soon she finds herself in the baby’s room, watching as it sleeps, marveling at the size of it now, how big it’s gotten, wondering if it’ll remember her at all, figuring it probably won’t. She doesn’t blame it.
She scoops it up, the baby, and it does not wake, it has no idea who’s handling it, and she wraps it an old blanket from nearby and clutches it tight against her chest and heads back down the stairs through the living room, the floor creaking, her senses alert, satisfied she’s doing the right thing.