By Tyler Magnin
I woke up not to the sound of my alarm clock but to a wailing coming from the next room. I swung off the blanket and jumped out of bed, sporting only underwear. Jayden was standing up, shuffling his feet a little to stay balanced on his crib mattress. He extended his arms towards me as I approached. I saw the tears built up in his eyes as I lifted him by his armpits to my chest. He felt warm, and his sustained screaming told me he was still sick, as he usually stops shouting in the morning once he sees his mother or me.
I carried him into the kitchen and filled a clean non-spill cup with milk. I tried to hand it to him, but he refused it, pulling his head to the side and crying louder. I then looked at the clock. It was 7:15 a.m., and although he usually wakes at this time during the week, he had been up for a few hours throughout the night and I decided to put him back into his crib for a little more rest. Since his last dose of Motrin was around one, I decided it was time for his next dose. I pulled the small orange bottle out of the medicine cabinet and measured out 1.5 ml of the orange syrup. He drank it down, pausing his wailing for a moment. I put him back in his crib and told him, “OK, now lie down Jayden, drink your milk and go back to sleep.” I blew him a kiss before closing the door behind me, his crying replaced with the whistle of air pulled through the milk in his sippie cup.
I climbed back into bed and swung the blanket back on top of me. “How are you feeling, baby?” I asked as I ran my fingers through my girlfriend’s long, wavy hair. “I’m OK,” she replied, opening her swollen eyes just enough to see me. “You need anything?” “Just spoon me,” she said, as she rolled over onto her side in three distinct motions—the same way she had when she was pregnant. I brushed her hair away from my face. “When am I going to be able to get my work done today?” I thought to myself. “And what the hell am I going to write this memoir about?” I thought immediately to write about Jayden’s birth, although I’d already written a poem about it. I let a few other ideas pass through my mind until I fell back asleep only to wake up an hour later to her cell phone vibrating on the marble headboard. I turned it off quickly and dozed back asleep.
“Oh, shit! What time is it? Ah, shit. Shania I gotta go.” I swung the blanket off of me, hopped out of bed and staggered to the bathroom. I brushed my teeth and washed my face before returning to the bedroom to get changed. I threw on my new baby-blue tee shirt, some plaid shorts, a belt, and a pair of tattered Nike Airmax sneakers. I layed down on my stomach across the bed and returned to stroking her hair. “Are you gonna be OK without me for a while?”
“I guess; when are you gonna be home?”
“I’ll be home in three hours, I have three classes then I’ll race back. I can’t find my phone so if you need anything come hunt me down.” I gave her a few kisses and paused a while before leaving. I snatched up my keys and raced down the stairs out of the back of my apartment. I unlocked my bike and raced off onto Washington.
I swerved by a few familiar potholes, dodging between cars and jetting through traffic lights, both red and green. I hopped up onto the sidewalk by the Jackson Mann and continued through Allston Village. I looked down Harvard Avenue toward Unos, where I worked for three or four shifts a week during the school year. “There’s no memoir here,” I thought as I raced down Brighton Avenue. At last I crossed the train tracks at Packard’s Corner and slowed my pace once on Comm Ave. I parked my bike next to the CGS building, locked it up and checked the schedule I keep in my wallet to see where my classes were.
Three lectures later I was back on my bike and racing for home, trying to pull a memoir out of CGS. “Maybe I could write about last year. I could write about some event that described what it was like to live off campus my first year, or maybe I could write about a bike accident. I remembered getting thrown off my bike years ago. I almost got hit by a car. Maybe I could throw myself into a car right now. That could be a good memoir.” Praying everyone was OK, I raced up the stairs of my apartment building to the top floor, inserted the key and threw open the door. I found Jayden watching Blues Clues in our bedroom, and Shanila half asleep on the bed. “Hey, how are you guys doing?” I asked, sprinkling her in kisses. “He seems better, how are you?” She groaned in response. I leaned over her to give her a kiss. With one hand on her forehead I said, “Well, you don’t feel too warm. I’m going to take Jay into the other room to play. You need anything?”
“Well you go back to sleep then.” And I took Jayden’s hand and turned off the TV with the other, walking him into the kitchen to make some lunch.
After lunch we played in his room for a while, pitching balls to each other and playing with stuffed animals. Then I put his turtle to sleep in his crib, changed his diaper, gave him a kiss and put him in too. I cleaned up the lunch dishes I had left in the kitchen and lay down with Shanila in bed. “Why don’t you go to the gym or something?” She asked me. “Because I want to lie here with you,” I said. I hadn’t been to the gym in weeks. “You know, I didn’t just lie here the entire time. We had breakfast and played in the living room. I just turned it on because I knew you’d be home.”
“Baby it’s OK. You did great.” We both fell back asleep around two and didn’t wake until about four, again to Jayden’s cries.
She was the first to get out of bed. She brought him back into bed as I lay wearily. He took a position on top of her, embracing her by her shoulders with his head on her neck. I rolled to my side. “I’m going to go ahead and get dinner started alright?” There was no response.
I filled a large silver pot with water and set the stove to high. I pulled ground beef from the fridge and scooped about a pound into a skillet set to medium. I grabbed a bag of vegetables from the freezer and poured about a cup into a green-colored, plastic bowl. I began scrubbing dishes in the sink and let my mind wander. I began to think about memoir topics again. I could write about the summer I spent in France. Or I could write about leading my lacrosse team to victory, or a hockey final, or even a cross-country meet. I could write about my senior year of high school, publishing a book of poetry. I could write about the week I spent at a mental hospital, or when I got kicked out of school. I could write about Jayden—when he was born, or when we lived in our apartment in Lowell.
“How’s everything coming?” I was surprised by her voice.
“Good. The water is starting to boil.” I opened a box of whole-wheat spaghetti and dumped it into the pot. Then I flipped my wrist a few times with the pan of beef, turning the brown side up. I took Jayden from her arms and rubbed his back. I brought him into the living room, grabbed a few books off the shelf and began to read to him. Shanila went back to lay down in bed as Jay and I sat on the floor with my back pressed against the couch. We read about dinosaurs, teddy bears, and dogs. Between each book I got up, carried him into the kitchen and stirred the spaghetti and flipped the beef.
After dinner I gave Jayden a bath and let him watch his favorite Blues Clues episode as I cleaned up. Again, as I scrubbed the dishes I went over the same list of ideas for my memoir. I began mentally crossing them off one by one. I can’t write about Jayden’s birth because I already wrote a poem about that. I can’t write about Unos because there’s no real story there. There’s no tough boss that I made up with, no soup girl like in the memoir my professor had me read. I can’t write about my trip to France because there was no conflict. I can’t write about sports because I don’t want to come off as a dumb jock. I could write about writing my book of poetry, that’s rather clever, but I wrote it over such a long period of time that it has no single story, I thought, and on down the list I went.
The dishes were done and Jayden’s show was over. I picked him up, filled a non-spill cup with milk, gave him his binky, and began to rock him back and forth singing “rock-a-bye baby.” I put him down, head on his pillow, and tucked him in. “Good-night Jayden, I love you. Sleep well baby, OK? Good-night.” I shut the door, checked on Shanila, who was now sleeping, and sat down on the couch. I opened my computer, took a deep breath and wrote this.