How I Lived

by Nancy Gomez


When we lived in the blue house
the baby woke every morning
before light. I’d change him
nurse him back to sleep
in the quiet dark of the kitchen
then sit in the wooden chair
looking out the window to the street.
Sometimes I’d hear the sound
of the old Volkswagen purring slowly
before the headlights switched off
and the car coasted into the drive
like a water fowl landing in a lake.
It was minutes before he stumbled
to the steps and began to crawl
on hands and knees. I crept
to my room and hid
the baby in his crib, myself
under the covers. He’d drop
his clothes on the floor,
climb into bed stinking
of sweat, cigarettes and gin.
In seconds he was snoring like a dying man.
Night after night I imagined
leaving: packing the children
into the car and driving to a cottage
where we’d sleep to the sound
of a nearby stream.
But his greasy breathing
brought me back to that bed.
Mornings I would get my girl
ready for school, the baby to day care,
go to work, come home again,
make oatmeal for dinner,
slice oranges for dessert.
When the children slept
I’d step into a scalding bath,
close my eyes, slide under
the water holding my breath.

NANCY GOMEZ has been published in River Styx and Rattle. She studies with Ellen Bass in Santa Cruz, California, and is currently in the MFA program at Pacific University.