It’s nice out, it’s hot. The baby’s still sleeping. She listens to him, checks his breath, regular, touches his forehead, cool. The child is sitting, wrapped in pelts. Same gestures for him, her hand, then her lips, on his forehead. He shuts his eyes, opens them again—sleep? No. Not yet. Ok, I’m going to sleep for an hour, wake me up in an hour, the stars will be out. We’ll be able to find our way. Then you can sleep when it’s your turn. I’ll keep watch tonight. Ok. She lies down. She shuts her eyes. She falls asleep immediately. The child watches her. Déjà vu, but he’s learning again; to be able to fall asleep immediately. To sleep quickly, deeply. Her breath already slows. Already her eyes are moving under their lids. She dreams. She hasn’t eaten, she fell asleep, she’ll eat afterward, he’ll sleep afterward. Suddenly to do the most important thing. The most important thing. He doesn’t want to forget. He repeats to himself: The most important thing. To do suddenly the most important thing. How does she go about choosing the most important thing? To always choose the most important thing? How doesn’t she hesitate, when, suddenly, without hesitation, she is doing the most important thing? This, too, he mustn’t forget to ask her. How she does it. To ask her in a bit. When she wakes up. Before he falls asleep. To ask her. So she explains. So he knows. So he learns. The baby stirs, eyes shut. He pushes gently on the basket’s edge, gentle swaying, there there, gently rocking. In our legs. If it cracks, we’ll feel it there, in our legs. He focuses to see if he feels anything whatsoever. Nothing. The wind outside is blowing. Blowing less than a moment ago. When did it weaken? Before or after she fell asleep? He looks at his watch. 10:36pm. He’ll make note that, at 10:36pm, the wind weakened. Are they advancing less quickly now? Why didn’t she look and make a note right away on the map when she came back? The map is folded up, there, at her feet. Wasn’t the most important thing knowing where they were in order to know the speed at which they were drifting, and toward where? How many days can they hold up at sea if the ice patch breaks again?
Copyright © 2018 Anne Kawala
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.