I go to lie down after dinner, not feeling so well. So, JP goes about the business of putting Jolie to bed alone.
I hear them in the bathroom right next to our room. The step stool dragging. Doors loudly shutting. (The baby!) Whining overtones drifting to my ears. Sounds of impending mutiny.
Crying. Her loud crying.
The sound of JP walking out into the hall and shutting the door, the momentary magnified cries suddenly muted several notches. I hear his voice, strained. His limit, reached.
I drag myself out of bed and into the harsh bathroom light where Jolie stands half-undressed and suddenly more pliant. I get her dressed, brushed and into bed. She is tired, I decide. Maybe it was that popsicle after dinner. Maybe it was JP and I, mostly talking to each other during dinner, hungrily catching up on each other's work day. Multifactorial, I conclude.
Our fault, probably.
So, I decide that tonight, for the "5 minutes" that I'll linger in her room with the lights out, I will curl up beside her. I rest my head on her pillow, 6 inches from her face. I drape my arm around her and she does the same. I observe my daughter, 6 inches away, taking in the half of her face not sunk into the pillow. It is a beautiful, less in focus half-face. She loves this closeness, I can tell. Repositioning her arm around me, touching my face. She is wildly in love with this closeness. At one point, she lifts up her head to touch me with her nose, then back down.
I am taken aback. I am taking it all in.
"Is it two minutes yet?"
I wait for the question.
"I love you."
"I love you too."
"I love you too."
She takes her ring finger and rubs it gently into her pillow. Then uses her finger to touch her lips gently tracing them with a familiar pattern. Back and forth. Top and bottom. Dabs pillow. Trace. She does this without words, as if by habit, and I see it. It's me. Putting on my lip balm from my tin. It's me.
"Are you putting on lip balm?"
We're both laughing now, one turn after another. She keeps tracing her lips. Back and forth. Top and bottom.
It is five minutes or six or seven and she hugs me with all of her might.
And, I think: I need to do this more. Yes, she needs it too.