beds and brothers

when I was young,

my older brother and I shared

bunk beds.

He claimed the top,

and so I was delegated to lie below him.

After mom tucked our comforters around us

and shut off the lights,

I would reach up my tiny fist

and knock knock on the sheet of plywood

beneath his mattress.

"What?" he would say,

and I would giggle incessantly,

never revealing the truth that I

was checking to make sure he was still there,

that the darkness and monsters it brought had not

consumed him.

Sometimes, he'd already be asleep,

and my feeble knocking would go


Those nights, I always had bad dreams.

When my baby brother was born,

and out grown his crib,

he slept with his bed in my room,

and we discovered that if we stretched out our fingers

as far as they could reach, 

the tips would brush.

We played a game where he passed all his stuffed animals to me

so I could protect them while he slept.

One night, he cried and cried,

I pulled my pillows over my head,

waiting for my parents to come get him.

"Will you do something?" my dad's slumbering voice

thundered from his room down the hall.

My little brother heard it too, and so held out his teddy

to me. 

At first, I didn't accept it.

He persisted: "Teddy?"

Finally, I took his offering,

and so the conveyer belt of toys began,

until there was barely room in the bed for my body.

But then, my little brother yanked off his blankets,

his little feet pattered along the floor,

and he climbed into bed with me.

That night, my dreams tasted of candy

and the milky scent from his fluffy hair.

Now, an adult,

alone at University,

on these cold winter nights I pull my blankets tight,

and I'll hear the tap tapping of the girl across the wall

settling into bed.

I imagine it's my brothers,

reassuring me

they won't disappear

when the lights do.

And so I sleep like a baby.   

The End

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