“Sleep Over” by Jeff Vande Zande

Jeff Vande Zande


It’s the first time
he doesn’t want us
around. They disappear
upstairs with sleeping bags,
pillows, a miniature suitcase,
like bonsai luggage.
They close the door.
My wife and I aren’t sure
what to do with our
sudden personal space.
We drift around
the empty downstairs.
I go to the landing
twice, lift a foot
to the first step.
My wife shakes her head.
“Just let them play,”
she says, smiling,
watching the weather
channel, trying to be positive
despite the cold fronts.
The upstairs rumbles
with their running
and distant voices.
What they will begin
to share tonight in whispers,
will leave us behind,
the start of what will be
our son’s own life.
Watching TV, my wife
and I remember
how to hold hands
like teenagers. Skin
finds skin, fingers
slide between fingers,
knotting, intertwining,
palms sweating
beneath the slow rhythm
of thumb rubbing thumb
until coming
downstairs so quietly,
they startle us,
as though we’d forgotten
we weren’t alone.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006

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