My daughter is a sleepwalker.
She’s been that way since we moved here six months ago. 10 years old and can’t fall asleep without me by her side. Heh. I don’t mind.
Every night, I keep vigil in our small apartment as a stay-at-home dad, marking the nights and days like a prison sentence. No, I shouldn’t say that. I shouldn’t because I love Izzy. Izzy is the best thing that could’ve happened to me and I see the past six months as nothing but a test of my love for her. A test my wife Liz has failed.
Every night I would doze just a little and be alerted by the jingle of the silver jingle bell I had bought for her, signaling that she was moving when she shouldn’t have been. Every night I would follow her out into the dim, dingy hallway of our apartment building to the elevator. Every night I would watch here stop in front of the floor elevator and stare at it unmoving for fifteen minutes before I felt it safe to pick her up and take her back to bed.
It was a simple routine, not stressful. She would stay in bed and sleep the whole night through afterward without so much as a tinkle of her bell. Though I never understood why it was our elevator she stopped at. When I questioned Liz about it, she would simply get this haggard look and find an excuse to leave or change the subject.
It wasn’t anything new really. Past six months she’s been more and more distant and somehow tired even though I am the one handling all of the work with Izzy. She only went to work and came home. Nothing else. I resented her for that. I knew things had been hard since the move but to shun our daughter was…
Anyway, sitting watch is my sole responsibility and tonight is no different.
My eyes drooped a bit but the bell woke me. I follow Izzy to the door and watch her stand on her tiptoes to turn the deadbolt. It’s cute honestly. The way she grunts a little as she pulls the door open with both hands. I’m so exhausted that I probably should stop this here, but…that’s not how Izzy worked. It was all the way to the elevator…otherwise she would throw fits. It didn’t help that curiosity got to me. Why is it so important that she go to the elevator? Where is she trying to go exactly?
I follow her into the dingy hallway, I’m silent and don’t bother to touch her. She comes to a stop in front of the elevator as always and stands there expectantly. I watch her, waiting for the minutes to pass before I can pick her up and take her back to bed. But, something compels me to press the button beside the door. I wanted — no, I needed to know where she was trying to go. Perhaps then, I could know how to cure her sleepwalking.
The doors open and she steps into the solitary beam of light inside the elevator. She turns to face me, eyes hooded and glazed over like always. But there was…a certain awareness there. It wasn’t wishful thinking. I know because I’m her dad. I know what to look for…
I step towards the elevator…
I turn and see Liz, her hands up to with frightened expression. What is she doing? She’s going to upset Izzy.
“Sweetheart,” she says. “What are you doing?”
“What’s wrong with you, Liz!” I whisper harshly. “You know you can’t shout at her while she’s like this!”
Liz’s face contorts into a pain I’ve never seen before. “Baby…just…turn around please.”
“It’s fine, Liz. I’m just seeing where she goes. Go back to bed.”
“Anthony please, just listen to me. Turn around, and come back,” she says calmly, tears building to the corner of her eyes.
I flounder and look back at the open door where our daughter stands patiently. Quietly. She is waiting for me…
I stepped forward.
“Anthony, just come back,” Liz says, slowly moving closer.
I whip around. “Have you lost it. She’s right there. We need to see where she’s going so we can stop her sleepwalking.”
“We’ll find out where she’s going another day, just come back, Anthony,” Liz begged.
Izzy presses the floor button and the elevator dings.
“Sweetie wait!” I yell, making a dash forward to stop her.
My side hits the floor hard and aggressive arms and legs are wrapped tight around me. Liz is strong, holding me hostage as I watch the elevator doors close only halfway before the entire thing simply drops and all I can see is Izzy’s last smile. No! I struggle to shove Liz off. If I hurry over, I can get to her! I can still hear the bell. She’s alright! I can still…
“Anthony, baby, please, I need you to wake up. You have to stop and wake up now!”
I gasp, breathing for the first time in…I don’t know. the rush makes me dizzy and my eyes are unfocused. What…what is happening? Where is Izzy? Why won’t Liz let me get to her? I still hear it…
“Please Anthony, Stop. I can’t lose you!”
I blink and my vision clears. The elevator is taped off, out of order…yellow caution tap runs across it, barring a deep dark hole. What the hell is this?
“Liz…” I say. “Our daughter…”
“Baby, Please… just stop…” she whispers, wrapping her fingers around the silver bell at my neck as she held me close on the edge of sobs.
-Harli V. Park-