I can’t believe it took me 10 months to write off a prompt about one of my nieces but the time was finally nigh. The prompt was mine, and it was to write about a song. Any song, any way, any POV. I immediately (OK it was like my fourth choice) thought of Shut Up Train, by Little Big Town which I used to “sing” (read: butcher) to Raegan on the reg. My writing group babes did not follow the prompt (of course) but did lovely things, as always. This was in the midst of Book Three edits (my own — OMG DID I MENTION THE FIRST DRAFT IS DONE OMG) so excuse any sloppiness. Hope everyone is having a great summer! All the love xoxo
PS narrator is me, baby is Raegan. If that helps.
PPS — what I really wanted to do was write in a “you” voice because I was scared to do it so that means I had to do it, of course. It wasn’t as hard as I thought – in this story at least.
“Shut up train,” I sing to you and wonder if I should be telling you to shut up. My voice is soft, if off-key, though, and loving and you’re only three weeks old anyway. So it probably won’t cause lasting psychological damage.
You blink up at me with wide blue eyes that I can’t see are blue but I know are blue. Because of the dark in the room, all they are is bottomless pits of trust and — at the moment — unhappiness. You don’t want to go to sleep. You fight it with all the energy you have in your tiny muscles. You swat at your ears and face to make yourself hurt so you don’t let yourself drift off into the welcoming abyss of slumber. “I’m trying to sleep,” I coo-sing the next line of the chorus.
You are not impressed.
My heart is racing because any second now you are going to whimper. Then cry. Then that will wake your mama and she is supposed to be getting rest. You are too, to be honest. But for now you seem content to just stare up at me. This stranger whom you met only two days ago but for some reason has you strapped to her body. And is swinging you about hoping the motion will keep you as quiet and as content as possible.
You blink heavily and I hold my breath, but don’t stop my smooth waltz around the quiet room. It’s a second bedroom or office, that’s been rigged into a nursery that you don’t sleep in anyway. No, not you. You, my love, are a fussy sleeper because this big wide world is just so new to you and you don’t want to miss a single second of it. You wage a war against it, at first a stubborn pacifist simply refusing to budge from your stance, but then a soldier in the muck of things pushing through the pain and weariness because god damnit you are not going to give up. Or give in.
“Can’t you show me a little sympathy?” I sing-plead, as the red numbers of the clock slide into the next hour with barely any acknowledgement from you.
“I give up, I give in, raise a flag, let you win,” I murmur as I sit down in the welcoming embrace of the rocking chair. I can almost see your eyes narrow as my butt hits the seat. No, this won’t do at all, you think. Must be standing. Must be moving. I hear it in your throat, the protest. I groan but I dare not make you angry. God forbid I bring the wrath of an infant down on my head. I get back up.
“Shut up train,” I hum a little louder now, hoping the vibrations from my lungs will lull you to sleep. My shoulders are starting to ache, my throat is dry, and I could not love you more.
Eight months later
You are not happy. That’s OK, because I am not happy either. We can be not happy together. I’m pretty sure there is actual shit leaking out of your diaper, but I don’t want to look because you are almost asleep and it’s been 45 minutes of singing and endless waltzing around the tiny floor of the one-bedroom apartment to get you even this close.
And you hate getting your diaper changed. About as much as I hate changing it. So. That’s where things stand.
I am not mama, and, what’s worse is, I am not mama and I am trying to get you to go to sleep. Which I believe we have established you hate. What’s even worse is I am not mama and I am trying to get you to go to sleep and this is a new place across the country from what you are used to. Not that you know what that even means, but you know what’s unfamiliar and this is unfamiliar.
I am unfamiliar. You will get used to me soon, my little blob, but for now I am not an anchor for you even as much as I want to be.
Maybe there’s something there. Maybe you remember “shut up train” because I’ve sung it to you every time I’ve seen your pretty face. At Christmas, at the wedding. I keep asking for sympathy that you refuse to give. That’s OK, though. I love you anyway.
I love you more now. I didn’t think that was possible. But you have this personality that glows and sparks and lights up everyone around you. You can’t even talk yet, and you have us all enraptured.
Even when you have shit seeping into the back of your onesie. Even when my hand goes numb from patting your little diapered butt til you drift off only to wake up three minutes later demanding me to keep patting you. Even when my arm muscles protest your dead weight as you slump against me and I’m too nervous to actually put you down lest you stir again.
Even as you stare up at me with eyes that are nowhere near sleepy enough, sucking on the ya-ya that I’m desperately — and at quite an awkward angle—trying to keep in your mouth so that you can soothe yourself off into dreamland.
I love you anyway. I’ll always love you anyway. Or maybe it’s, I’ll love you because. I’ll love you because you’re an obstinate beast who refuses to go quietly into that good night [of sleep]. I’ll love you because you love feeling someone’s heartbeat next to yours. I’ll love you because you’re not easy but you’re strong. I’ll love you because when you wake up you are all giggles and light and happiness as if an absolute standoff had not occurred the night before.
But for now I’ll love you because as I sing the final chorus I think I finally see your eyelashes resting against your cheeks.
I pause for a moment in the thin sliver of moonlight that sneaks into the room and rub a thumb over the soft skin of your nose. Your eyes fly open and I sigh.
“I hope you’re happy now, I’m wide awake,” I sing and it’s an admonishment to myself. Rookie mistake.