“Here.” I snarl, thrusting the screaming pink bundle at the bewildered girl. She shies away from me, but I insist, dropping the hysterical child onto her lap. “You woke her up. You put her back to sleep.”
The girl gapes at me, looks at me like I am the crazy woman I must appear to be, but she leans forward, one hand on the baby, and puts her beer down on the porch. She throws me an unreadable look before awkwardly scooping up the infant. Her two friends have yet to utter a word.
“Shhh shhhh. There there.” She says hesitantly. She places the baby on her shoulder like it’s a loaded gun. The infant takes that as a prompt to scream even louder. The girl’s eyes roll wildly and she tries shhhing a hair louder while frantically looking at her friends for guidance.
They shrug helplessly and she looks at me, standing there, with my arms crossed in front of me.
“Don’t look at me. You do this every night. You sit out here with any number of people, laughing and talking all night long. Every single time you laugh, you wake her up. It takes me hours sometimes to get her back to sleep. This time you deal. Got it?”
She nods weakly and tries to pat the baby’s back again. But I know my child, that’s not going to do the trick. Nothing is going to do the trick. It’s going to take hours of rocking, crooning, bouncing, humming, and eventually a feed to get her to stop shrieking and go back to sleep. But I’m not telling her that. Not yet. I’m going to make her sweat a little first. Going to let her feel a little of the misery she puts me through every night.
She stands up and jostles the baby a bit, trying to rock her. “It’s ok baby. It’s ok. Go back to sleep baby.” The movement and the unfamiliar voice infuriate the baby even more and the screams reach an unholy pitch.
She pulls the infant away from her shoulder and holds her out towards me.
“Please. Please, just take her back.” Her eyes are filling with tears and I start to take pity. I reach for my writing baby who is so relieved to be back in my arms that she settles down instantly, snuggled deep in the crook of my neck, peering out intently at the crying girl.
“Every night you do this. Every. Single. Night.” I turn around and walk away, taking my now peaceful child into our home across the street. As I step back into my bedroom I hear the girl sobbing through the window that looks out onto her porch; I don’t feel an ounce of remorse.
For twelve months my second daughter slept in our room which overlooks the street. On many nights the girl living across the street would stay up until all hours of the night having loud, gleeful conversations with her friends on her porch. Their bursts of laughter often woke my very light sleeper and as I rocked her back to sleep again, and again, and again I fantasized about walking across the street and making her take over for me while I went back to sleep. I might have danced a jig the day she moved.
This post was written in response to a Write-of-Passage prompt. click any one of the links below to see how other writers handled the prompt “Dialogue.”