Late night belongs to me now. The house has dulled it's voice to a slow and steady thrum - the white noise of refrigerator, computer equipment. I walk down the stairs, passing Alice's room - listening for any stirrings from inside. The light from our bedroom leaves a small blue trail on the hallway floor.
In the living room I turn on a lamp, give myself some comfort in the quiet. Pumping has become a solitary experience, something I do in the dark house, something I do late at night when everyone is dreaming. Occasionally Fergus comes down to keep me company. He hopes for treats.
I sit hunched on the couch, listening to the humpf-humpf-humpf of the breast pump. I scan the room from this seat. I create to do lists in my head - the things left undone. I think about the day stretching out before me tomorrow and wonder if I will manage my time better. Is there ever a day that ends with satisfaction? Completion? A feeling that I have made the most of every second?
I close my eyes, meditate to the sound of the pump. I think of images that I'd like to paint - pieces I would like to make with bits of fabric - words I would like to commit to paper. In the black landscape of my mind I move mountains and create beautiful works of art. When I open my eyes, the yellow lamplight brings me back to the late hour, the feeling heavy in my eyelids.
When I am done, I walk to the kitchen, my bare feet padding on the wood floor. The wood is cool and comforting to my toes. I rinse the pump parts, carefully bag and tag the milk for Alice. She will need it tomorrow. I open the 'fridge and pull out the little plastic dish I use to keep the bags of milk. I count the bags, thinking of Alice, what she needs - how she trusts me to take care of her. I count the bags. They are so precious to me for what they represent, how much Alice needs every drop here. Sometimes I count the bags two and three times, thinking about Alice's hungry face, her smacking lips.
Many times I find my way to the den, to this computer, to the light of the monitor, to the white of this page. I think about my life. I think about my family. I try to represent them well. I often fail.
Chip is waiting for me upstairs. Waiting with closed eyes, gently sleeping. I will join him soon, and when I do, I know that I'll have a few moments of hesitation, wondering if I should wake him up, just to talk to him. To share the beauty of the quiet. To share a secret from the day. To kiss his nose. To rub his eyebrows.
Instead, I will watch his sleeping face, try to read his expression. Hope for good dreams. Hope for a good tomorrow.