Was that a knock?
I’m wide awake in the dead of the night for the eighth or ninth night in a row. Hell, I can’t even remember how long its been. The baby came only a few weeks back. My insomnia should be coming from him, should be, but no. Here I am, unable to sleep and it’s no one’s fault but mine in a household full of sleeping people. My girlfriend, Holly, and Brayden, our son. Those two words are still very new to me.
That’s probably why I’m awake now, eating peanut butter straight out of the jar, standing half-dressed in the kitchen in a desperate attempt that I can induce a calorie-caused coma. No such luck for me though. Now, there’s a knock at my front door, or at least I think there is.
I’m tired. That’s all it is. No one’s at the door this late.
I listen for another sound, a knock, a movement. Nothing.
Our house is a small one, built during the Depression. The hardwood floors and the quiet neighborhood in the suburbs officially sealed the deal for me. You can hear everything in this house, from the basement to the second story where all of the spare bedrooms are.
Holly and the baby are sound sleep in a bedroom that I should be in right now, just off of the living room on the main floor. Also on the main floor is a kitchen with an island that doubles as our dining space, which is where I’ve got myself propped up on my elbows and I chew this peanut butter like a madman.
So, this is what our friends and family had joked about before the baby came. The complete and utter exhaustion that comes from parenthood and all of the “perks” that come along with it. The kind of exhaustion that makes a person regret every time before that they complained about being tired. The kind of exhaustion that’s a rite of passage for shutting down the people that compare having a pet to having a baby. The kind of exhaustion that short circuits the part of a person’s brain that tells a person to sleep, along with the logical ability to determine what is and what isn’t a knock.
Why am I still awake? Why am I not in bed next to Holly and the baby?
From my spot on the island in the kitchen, I have a clear gaze to the front door on the other side of the living room. There’s a glass rectangle in the center of the door that lets in light from the streetlamps from the quiet street outside.
I could open up that door and leave right now.
It would be better for both of them. People say that it takes time for a mother to bond with their newborn, especially after the traumatic birth that Holly had to go through. Emergency C-Section. She barely has enough strength to take care of herself at the moment, let alone a newborn. This leaves me picking up the slack around the house as she recovers, with no time for the on and off switch of parental responsibilities like you see in the movies.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a pity party. We wanted this child. We planned for this child. We did, but where’s that we now? There’s barely a me. I’m so tired I can’t sleep, yes, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. I’m not the same person I was back then.
I focus my attention on the front door and fantasize about stepping through it. How the cool winter air will feel on my skin. The things I would pack. The note I would leave behind. I’d send money to them, I’m not a complete asshole, but this isn’t what I signed up for, no sir. It’s the worst kind of buyer’s remorse and I know that, but the hell if I know what to do with myself anymore. Hold out on the hope that I’ll learn to love this baby? I was under the impression that babies are meant to bring out the best in people, but ours did the opposite.
Wait. Was that a knock again?
Stuffing the spoon into the jar of peanut butter, I take a few steps towards the front door. Even in the darkness of the room, I’m able to catch a glimpse of my reflection approaching the square on the door. A white T-shirt, a pair of boxers, and a pair of melancholy eyes that I shouldn’t recognize but do. I want to pull that reflection out of the glass, strangle it, and scream, “Man up, enough of this. You’re a father ow, so take care of your child and girlfriend. They’re counting on you, and it’s too bad if you don’t like it because you brought this on yourself. No one wants to hear about your problems.”
The least I can do is pretend to be a man and check the door. Hell, that’s half of the male world anyway: trying to prove that you’re worth that extra Y-chromosome. There’s no scoreboard for being a father, no competition, no trophy, no gauge of masculinity. Instead there’s diapers, crying, doctor appointments, insomnia, gentle hands, and no credit for any of it. This isn’t anything like when I first met Holly, back when it was all parties, alcohol, and late nights. It’s easy to show the world how much of a man you are with those things.
But now? I’ve been reduced to peanut butter eating frenzies and stumbling through a dark living room in search the source of a noise that might or might not be in my head. No thanks.
I check the front door and, of course, there’s nothing there. Walking back through the kitchen, I twist the knob on the back door and find the same result. The digital clock on the stove reads something like 3 A.M., but my bleary eyes aren’t sure.
Was I really in the kitchen for an hour?
It felt like five minutes. I check the jar of peanut butter and there’s a lot more missing that what I remember eating. My throat should be jammed with this stuff, but it feels fine. I gulp down a glass of water, just to be sure.
That’s when I hear something else, and this time I’m positive that it’s not a knock. It’s our son crying in the bedroom. Holly stirs from beneath the blankets and whispers a faint, “Nick, honey. The baby,” through the open door. Her stomach muscles are still too torn up to get out of the bed without help, let alone having to tend to a fussy baby.
I notice my reflection again in the square glass on the front door as I walk towards the bedroom. I look surprised, as if I were saying, “What were you thinking? You weren’t serious about leaving. Were you?”
Part of me wants to answer what I really think, but my tired mind can’t focus on more than one thing at a time. The baby needs a change. After swapping out the diaper, I slip the little mittens back on his hand to keep himself from accidentally clawing out his eyes.
Would he even notice if I left?
Sleep comes to me eventually, as it always does, but never soon enough. I barely have time to close my eyes before my alarm goes off. Time for work. Time to get dressed. Time to sit in my car for an hour and a half in traffic. Time to fake being good at my job. Time to read company e-mails about finding a balance between my personal life and my work life. Time to thank my in-laws for coming over to help while I was working.
You think this is hard? Holly went through something much worse than this. Shut up. It’ll get better sometime soon, this is just a phase.
I hope that’s all this is, because I’m starting to lose what faith I have left.
Maybe a good night’s rest will help me.
Things Go Knock In The Night
Was that a knock?