Waiting in a Moment of Something

I still can feel the cool slipping of the sheets on my shins
Rubbing one foot over the other like a fly that cleans
Until I’d settle and my mom would tuck me in
As if I needed help lying under blankets,
Validation that I was doing it right and
That everything was the way everything should be
She’d kiss me on the forehead and I remember it being one drop
More wet than I wished it were
I’d feel the imprint of her lips there for hours
Unless I gave it a modest dab with my slippery sheets,
A valley that remembers a flood on a forehead
Tickles enough to keep my eyes open
Yet when I’d wake up my forehead would feel
More dry than I wished it were

My mom would stick her eyes to me as she started to crack the door
And then I’d tell her that it felt like something was missing
And her eyebrows would dance a gentle dance that said
“I care and I worry and yet I’m tired and confused”
She’d ask me what I meant and I’d say I didn’t know
And it became a game of chess that neither of us knew how to start or play or finish
And just the other day I said to my boyfriend as we got in bed
That I felt like something was missing
Everything is where and who and when and how it’s supposed to be

We’d have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner
I’d be expecting my mom to serve me five
But she’d say, “Start with four”
There was nothing more lonely and unsettling than the phantom space
Of the could-be-fifth meatball on my plate
And then the four I had tasted not quite right

Nights like those I’d climb into sleep as if pulling on a sweater
When a ring would snag and pull loose one thread
And I’d follow the feeling of something missing
Until the ring would let go and give up and so would my mom and so would I
Until my forehead valley of spit would dry

by Sophie Johnson ’25