I remember close nights in air-conditioned hotel rooms, my whole family under heavy blankets. We’d be traveling for one of my older sister’s soccer tournaments somewhere up or down the East coast — Maryland, Maine, Virginia Beach, Delaware — now, the trips have all blurred together and it’s just one room, always the same: two twin beds, a wet bathing suit over the shower curtain rod, ice melting in a bucket on the table by the window.
The soccer games started early in the morning, so Leora and I would be settled into our bed by 8:30 and my parents, crowded in theirs, would turn on the TV. It was a luxury to watch the screen flicker from bed, a break from our house rules that forbade TV at night. It was a rare treat, like a doughnut or a new book from Barnes and Noble, and I tried to pay extra attention to how it felt — to be horizontal and entertained, with a different mattress under me, my head propped up with extra and plumper pillows.
As the night ticked on and the show lost my interest, I’d let the TV fade to background noise and switch my attention to my family around me — to my sister’s breathing and fluttering eyelids, to my parent’s murmured conversation from the other bed. I could reach over with my foot and touch Leora’s ankle with my toe, and in return she’d press a knobby knee into my side. I could hear my mom pick up her water glass, and I’d feel my dad’s deep voice resonate in my chest when he laughed at something on TV.
To have them all with me at bedtime made me like a small planet with three orbiting moons — I’d lie very still at the center of my universe, listening for their sounds and feeling their pull as I sunk deeper into the starched sheets.
Soon, the passing minutes would weigh my eyelids, and the cadence of the TV would fade to a whispered lull. My parents’ low voices from across the small expanse of patterned carpet met my ears as rising and falling vowels. I’d curve myself toward my sister’s body and touch the small of her back with the tips of my fingers. The shifting weight and sighs of my family settled over me, heavier and warmer than the blankets. And, with all of them close enough to feel their gravity, I’d drift off to sleep.
Originally published at joannakenney.tumblr.com.