It’s a hot and dark 3am, and this lack of sleep has landed a cup of chamomile tea in my hand.
The lingering backthroat tingle and floating polleny flowerbuds will always remind me of a childhood in South America, colds and my mother. She’d usher me into hot baths—”to clear the sinuses”—and I’d lay in the rising vapor, the scalding water turning my young hands a hot pink. I would roll onto my side as the waterline tickled my face and submerged an eye, half a lip, leaving just enough room to breathe.
My hair settled around me like dark satiny seaweed. I’d exhale slowly, hardly, “to clear the sinuses,” until I could hear nothing but the distant clang of pipes beneath, a occasional gurgle from my stomach, and an incessant underwater heartbeat rolling off the sides of the tub. Eventually my mother would return, swish her hands through the hot water. I’d rest my heels on the faucet as the water chilled, and my mother would sing a lullaby about a beluga whale—about the heavens above and the seas below and the waves rolling out.
I’ve since learned to fend for myself, you could say. Autumn’s gifts of chilling rain and unwelcome colds mean I walk myself sniffling to Walgreens for some Nyquil and vitamin C and tuck myself into bed. I find baths wasteful and extravagant, but when the odd feverish occasion does call for a little extravagance, I watch the water run clear and hot, lay naked on my side, hands pink, and sing to myself over the sound of my heartbeat—the same today as it was in a bathtub fifteen years ago.
Baby beluga, is the water warm?
Is your mama home for you?