Penelope

by Joshua Riley

I held your head in my hand, and felt for the first
time in my life the great hour hand clang into place
the wakening, stiffening, settling terror of age.

I held your head in my hand for the first time and
felt the ridges of an eggshell soft and brittle, felt the
veins pulse underneath, and knew I couldn’t set you
down, run off, or disappoint you in any way.

I held your head in my hands in the night like a
grapefruit and tasted your bitter tears and you
screamed and screamed for what I felt was the
helplessness we both held in our hearts.

The tears came fast, and my heart swelled as your
mouth contorted in discomfort.

But the eye of the hurricane passed over us both and your eyes opened for a moment and we saw each other for the first time.

I knew the name I gave you was correct. This would be
our lives together waking in the night with the
cool blue of television dreams flickering in the
distance, our shared hope for sleep ever evading our
grasp, but we strive nonetheless for it still.