Dallas, Texas, the week of Thanksgiving. A group of childhood friends are gathered in a bustling family kitchen.
The windows look out on a neat front yard where the host is making homemade pizza on the grill. Smoke billows across the lawn and into the quiet street. Inside and outside, there are kids everywhere; one is carrying a baby doll, so it looks as though even the kids have kids. The grown-ups are drinking margaritas out of big, Styrofoam cups.
A couple of newish parents are in town for the week, still getting used to the sensation of bringing a bottle of wine and a baby to the party.
The newish mother isn’t from around here, but she feels like a part of her is, that she understands the locale by now. She is alone for a second, standing by the kitchen table, swilling the ice in her cup so that it makes a delicious crunching sound. Without wishing to seem awkward, she starts chatting with her husband’s oldest friend – the one he has known since they were floating in pockets of amniotic fluid when their mothers made friends in Lamaze class.
She begins by asking him questions about babies; it's her current party trick. Mainly, why don’t they sleep?
He has twin boys, so he has experience. He is quietly pensive for a moment, then he asks her a bold question. “Do you have nightmares?”
She is taken aback, but also impressed by his intuition. She is prone to anxiety in the dead of night, or at dusk, or before her head makes contact with pillow. Just when her husband is pleasantly settling in to read his book, she will sit up or lean over or just lie there, eyes darting around the room. He knows, he sighs, he rests his book on his chest. She is wondering if a plane could come crashing fall through the ceiling, like in Donnie Darko. Or if the whole apartment building could fall into a sinkhole. What about asteroids? Earthquakes? Will their son grow up to know what a lion looks like or will they be extinct by then?
Her husband is patient, knows she is prone to this.
She has had nightmares ever since she can remember, since she was still in diapers and dreamed that a giant, evil badger was chasing her around the garden. She wonders if her son’s sleep is connected to this, if he has inherited this unfortunate trait form her. Sometimes he laughs in his sleep, sometimes he squawks.
She smiles at her husband’s oldest friend, feeling an intuitive connection.
“Yes,” she says. “I have nightmares.”
She wants to thank him for picking up on that. She thought she kept it well hidden.
“Oh,” he says, flushing slightly. “No, I asked if you had a night nurse.”
She laughs, a little too loudly. He does too. Then, for a moment, everything is quiet again. The ice makes a delicious, crunching sound, swirling around around her cup.