“Daddy, it’s been such a long day. I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes opened.”
“I know, pumpkin. It’s ok.” My little girl let out a big yawn and stretched her arms above her head. I took that as an opening to wrap my arm around her and pull her into my lap. “I know you had a busy day with work, and school, all on top of having to take your sister to the airport. All daddy wants is for you to come rest your head right here.”
Patting my thigh, I kept pulling her down until her head was in my lap, and her legs were stretched out along the rest of the couch. “You aren’t mad, daddy?” She asked, nestling into my leg. “I feel like even with how long my day was it’s still my duty to take care of you.”
“Shhh,” I answered, petting her long brown hair to her head. “Don’t be silly. You take good care of me. There’s nothing I want from you right now other than this right here.”
With her eyes shut she mumbled, sleepily, “You take the best care of me, daddy. I love you so much.”
“Shhh. Just rest your little girl head and close your eyes.” I turned the volume down all the way on the TV, and kept petting her soft little head. The sun had just set and the color of the sky could have been dawn or dusk. She was such a good girl. She would have given me anything I wanted. If I had taken out my cock, her mouth would be around it right now while I watched the news. If I wanted I could have dragged her into the bedroom and yanked off all her clothes. But I was telling the truth when I said, all I wanted was to feel her soft hair between my fingers. “Shh, baby. Everything’s OK. Your long day’s over now. Let daddy take care of you.”
My little girl’s body lifted as she inhaled, and my hand slid along her temple into her hair. She seemed so small, like I could have picked her up off the couch with just a finger. She would have floated there in space in front of me, and it wouldn’t have surprised me. When my hand reached the back of her ear, I reset to her temple, and she sank expelling all the air she had been holding in her lungs. I could almost hear the rhythm, like that of a leaky faucet with an extraordinarily slow drip. Our inhales and exhales were happening together, elongating time exponentially, one second lasting only one second, but the second that followed lasted a tenth longer. The second after that stretched into 1.2, followed by 1.4, 1.8, and 2.6, going on and on until my head collapsed into my chest and my eyes closed, freezing time altogether, my hand still petting my perfect little girl’s head in perpetuity, our personal rhythms now indistinguishable from one another, neither of us awake, but both present in each other’s dreams. I felt the couch beneath us give way to the tile floor, giving way to the concrete slab underneath. The earth opened up like a giant sink hole swallowing everything into it, everything except me and my little girl. We hovered above the dark chasm, her head in my lap, my hand petting her head, time ticking forward with eons of time between each tick. I spoke in my sleep, “I love you so much, baby,” and waited to hear a response, knowing full well the speed of sound had been reduced to a standstill. So I began speaking in my mind. I love you so much, baby. And almost instantly I felt a response. I love you so much, daddy.
We had become so linked, we turned inception into a reality, but I wasn’t in her dreams and she wasn’t in mine. We both occupied a space of a shared dream. And in our dream we were the only two people in the world. All she wanted was to feel love and comfort, and all I wanted was to give it. It seemed like billions of years had passed, like we had died, and our bones were hundreds of feet below the surface of the world, encased into the bedrock. Me sitting as if I were on a couch and my little girl hugging my leg as if it was one of her stuffed animals. Maybe an archeologist would discover us one day and wonder what had happened in the moments before our death. Would she surmise that a catastrophe had happened around us and we had no time to respond? Or would she figure out we had merely fallen asleep and never woken up.
But almost at exactly the moment I had that thought, my eyes opened, bringing me back into the world. I looked out the window and the sky was still blue, except now our across the street neighbor was pulling out of his driveway and off in the distance I could hear a garbage truck barreling down a road. I looked at my watch and saw I still had three more hours before I had to get up, so I slid my arm under my little girl’s neck, as I shifted my body. I slid my other arm under behind her knees, and picked her up as I stood. She wrapped her arms around my neck and pressed her lips into the thick stubble on my neck. Carefully, I carried her into the bedroom, whispering “Shhh, baby. Don’t wake up. Daddy’s got you. Stay asleep. Stay with me in your dreams. Let me just get us to bed and I promise I’ll be with you again soon.”