I promised my daughter my heart, forgetting it wasn’t mine. You were there, fat with her, already weary of the burden and beautiful, intolerably beautiful. You made demands: a hairbrush, a mirror, not that hairbrush, ice yes but not ice chips, a delivery date—a specific, scheduled, nontransferable delivery day, hour and minute. The nurses hesitated outside your door. They looked at me to see if it was safe to come in. They didn’t understand you at all, or me, or us, or try very hard. This went on for weeks. You didn’t object when I placed my ear to your belly and told her not to worry, that I would be everything to her. I didn’t know how much I was promising. You squeezed my hand and allowed me to curl my arm around your back and to lie there drowsy with our daughter for my pillow while we sang that stupid jingle about who would always be there, until the nurses came and said the whole floor needed sleep and I’d have to go. That stupid jingle is my anthem now. I hum it in the courthouse and outside the principal’s office where I’m known for my positive outlook. I understand you needed some time off, sweetheart, but you’re missing the milestones. You were young and taut and sexless as a cat and I didn’t know how to approach you. Seven days later you were every bit the beauty you are now, and I had made promises it turns out you didn’t need, and you had me convinced it was I who had chosen you. She’s there now, sweetheart, she’s meeting boys and I can’t do this alone. It may take seven days, it may take seven years, but she’ll make choices for me or despite me.

Copyright © April 20, 2008 David Hodges