After Bedtime

The house is silent.

I tucked him in an hour ago
and when he got up and called to me
I screamed at him
for lying
about having a bad dream
when he hadn’t even been in bed for a minute.

My throat reminds me
of how loud I yelled.
My own mother rarely even raised her voice to me.
Where did this screaming demon come from?

I wish I could tell him again that I’m sorry.
But he’s actually asleep now.
Of course.

I tiptoe past the staircase
and notice his door is ajar
just a smidge more than I left it
after I apologized for yelling
and asked him to stay in bed.

I creep up the stairs —
maybe he got up to get a drink
and I didn’t notice?
— and I find him asleep in the hallway.
He even brought his little pillow
and his favorite quilt.

Sleeping in the hallway...

I call his name.

No answer.

He’s fast asleep.

Finally
when I try to pick up his spindly forty pounds
he awakens
confused
and I explain to him
that it’s time to go back to bed
and I lead him toward his room.

He climbs into bed
and I cover him with his sheet
and I kiss him on the cheek.

“I love you,” I whisper.

“I love you, too,” he whispers back
and is asleep again before I leave the room.

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