i lean against a toyshelf that was once a changing table in a playroom that still contains within it an office. a child clambers over me and a sippy cup drips rice milk into the suit i never bothered to change after work, while the other child beats my head cheerfully with a hairbrush. brush mommy’s hair gently, i chirp. she pauses, cocks her head to peer at me, then swats.

jenNEE? she inquires solicitously. i beam. gently, i say.

we talk, now, she & i. we talk.

my brain flits for a moment on a memory of eighth-grade science class and a mustachioed teacher labouring over arcane powders and the mystery of States of Change. in the scene, thirteen-year-old me  sits slackjawed, nonplussed, an empty thought bubble half-deflated above her.

thirty-seven-year-old me ponders the conversion from gas to liquid and dismisses it.  rather ostentatiously showy, really.  hell, we’re all in a constant science experiment of State Change: life would’ve been simpler if they’d just laid THAT out in junior high rather than bothering us with all that garble about kinetics and theories of matter, whatever those were.

i am matter. my children are kinetic. never the one shall catch the others, nor keep them still and static. memorize that, kids.

world’s Slowest Ever Esprit d’Escalier. so there, Mr. Plaid Pants and Moustache.

Dave is at his desk two feet away, lord of itunes. he is at home this month, washing my delicates and harnessing GoogleWave as a home project management tool, meaning i can sit at work and pile pearls of  inspiration like “buy baby wipes!” onto his list rather than my own sad little daytimer. we’re four days in and he is rising to the occasion with grace. i gaze at him and imagine he sits in his chair slightly differently, more aware of the house around him, of the overflowing trash can sulking at his feet.

i hum a little Rocky Horror, slightly altered to suit:

in just seven days i can make you…a wi-i-i-ife.

i thrill, and wonder if he’ll start meeting me at the door dressed in fishnets, casseroles in his oven-mitted hands.  then i realize he needn’t bother with the fishnets. i am so goddamned tired i have the libido of a wet, dead mackerel.

time change is a cruel instrument of torture dreamed up by sadists. since Sunday morning, my children have not slept past the new 5:45. at night, they’re wired, exhausted, a once-peaceful bedtime degenerating into a drawn-out circus.

dear powers that be: i’m already coping with a chronic case of State of Change. nobody needs to fuck with my clock, too.

it’s a good thing i have a wife, even temporarily. it would be better if anybody was getting anything resembling a decent night’s sleep.

Dave reaches out an arm and scoops Oscar up to the computer, brown head and blondish one close together. Josephine beetles away from me, off to thwack her hairbrush on some unsuspecting inanimate object.

the music catches me off guard – the opening chords of the first pop song i ever loved. Annie Lennox’s voice thrums up through the synthesizers.

i want to walk in the open wind
i want to talk like lovers do

like lovers. ah, lovers.

i remember being perhaps twelve, in my bathtub, still ignorant of chemistry and States of Change but shaving my legs for the very first time, Eurythmics my soundtrack for this rite of passage.  i ran a finger up the expanse of one wet, newly shorn calf, trying to inhabit the song, to imagine – from a vantage point of utter innocence, pure tabula rasa – the exotica of whatever it might be that lovers really did do. then i looked over my shoulder, mortified, and broke down in giggles in my bubble bath.

“lovers” meant sex. whatever that was.  but…they talked? like in sweet nothings? what would i say to a lover? another empty thought bubble hung limp above my adolescent head. so much is unimaginable when the mind is young.

sitting on the floor, though, soft and tired and sticky with sippy cup spillage, i understand the lyrics for the first time.

i remember waking languidly and looking for his eyes. i remember being two, just two. i remember that once upon a time, i saw nothing in a room but him. the memory is so vivid i almost glance over my shoulder as i did at twelve, embarrassed to be caught out naked with my own thoughts.

i could spit across the room and dirty his shirt. but i barely see him. and the lovers we once were feel as far away from me as that bathtub where i first shaved my legs twenty-five years ago.

i would not trade. but oh, god, i would like to visit.

next week, we escape to Montréal for five days. just us. in a city, gray and anonymous and magical to me, sleeping late in hotels and buying baguette for breakfast.  cafés.  wine.  nowhere to be.

and maybe we will talk like lovers do, up late, lost again in a world of our own creation. maybe. maybe the constant State of Change can circle round.

i would rather that than a wife, even. and that’s saying something.