Last night, while I gave Robin a bath, I poured water from a cup into the shallow tub. For a while, he watched the thin braid fall from the lip and disappear into his lap. He’d follow the cup to its height and then wait, quiet, until the water returned to him. After a time, he wanted more. Now, as I tipped the rim toward him, he tried to catch what was surrendered. More than that, he tried to hold it, the turning rope of water, until the rope ran out and the bath turned colder.
I often think about insanity. Or I should say, I often think about the anecdotal definition of insanity: repeating the same action over and over again but expecting a different result. Robin does this. He once tried to lift a string from a fraying pant twenty times just to have it float gently back to his pink knee. He’s thrown a wooden ball into a wall until I had to decide the sound was a metronome to stop my mind from revolting. Last night, as I poured the water, I expected he’d dissolve in failure, undone by the confusion of an unusable rope. But he didn’t. He lifted his wrinkling torso into an athlete’s position, and with two hands, not one, challenged water to run.
Stewart and I discovered we were pregnant in Nantucket. Or rather, I discovered first. I walked into an island drugstore early one Thursday morning and grabbed a bright test—the one with the lines, not the one with the words. I used their bathroom without asking. This wasn’t a bathroom, really, more like a broom closet with a toilet and shower. And one bright window that backlit my face in the mirror. That was a year and a half ago, but I still remember how young my face looked then. I mumbled some words to my shadowed head while I watched two pink lines branch among me, the mops and bleach.
Later that day, my mother threw up. It had been at least a year since I watched her eat an untroubled dinner. Housebound, she waited while Stewart and I went biking again. Past abandoned off-peak rentals, sandy evergreens and pubs, we settled into a silent, movable hope only early love allows.
The week before we left for Nantucket, Stewart lost his job. We were living in New York and close to broke. One week later, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, just a few days after a nurse offered Stewart and I chipper congratulations.
How many times over the last year have I tried to grab a rope of water? How many times, failing, have I cracked up expecting something different? And yet, today, it’s already spring in Vermont.