The room is dark.
The lamps on the street below cast vague shadows onto the walls of the room. The windows from the building across the street reflect the alternating red, yellow and green from the traffic light at the corner, while the white security light shines brightly on the sidewalk. The bushes in front of the building still blink with tiny dots of orange Christmas lights even though it is the middle of January. A car’s headlights throw shapes onto the wall that move across the room as it drives by.
The stillness is broken only by the subtle sucking noise of your fingers in your mouth. Your eyes remain closed as you drift off to sleep, lulled into security by the soft lullabies your mother and I have just finished singing. With a deep breath you extract your fingers and return your arm to your side. Your mouth closes and your chest continues to rise slowly. Your mother puts her lips to the back of your head, kissing your hair that has been steadily darkening since your first birthday. She whispers a quick “Sweet dreams, baby boy,” gives you another kiss and leans back.
I get up from the bed as quietly as I can, wincing as the floorboards creak loudly under the weight of my feet. I put one knee back on the bed, slip my hands under your neck and back and pick you up, cradling your head in the crook of my arm. Your legs hang over my other arm, your feet dangling in the cool air. The weight of your sleeping body startles me, for some reason, as though I haven’t realized just how much you’ve grown over the past two and a half years. Your legs sway as I start to move towards your crib and I suddenly become particularly aware of the pressure of your head on my arm and the warmth of your cheek against my bicep.
I lift you higher, bringing your head nearer to mine. I whisper, “I love you,” and kiss your forehead, a counterpart to your mother’s. I picture two faint balls of light where the kisses were placed, circling above your head and around your body, partnering to keep watch, to stand guard, to shield you through the night from frightening dreams and the dangers of the waking world. I lower you slowly into your crib, resting your head on your pillow, whose case shows a sky blue cut by wispy cirrus clouds. You lie motionless and peaceful between your stuffed animals, your chest still breathing deeply. I spread your blanket over you and the eternally happy face of Frozen’s Olaf gazes up at me, causing my lips to stretch into a smile. I turn your music machine on quietly, another protective measure against your suffering, and allow myself another moment to watch you sleep. Your mother rises from the bed and we leave together to let go of our own tension built up during the day, all the while, keeping watch ourselves.