I awake always before she does- so when she cries for me, I run and scoop her into my arms, changing her nighttime diaper quickly and then holding her, feeding her, until she is ready to stumble away and play. But this morning, I see the rash. Mottled red all over her face, her torso, climbing down to the rim of her diaper. I yell at my husband brusquely from the door of the bedroom, "Wake up! We're taking her to the hospital."
She hasn't yet recovered from the illness she contracted in Arizona. Because she had a fever and cough the day before, and because she has not yet received her measles vaccination, the medical assistants agree on a blood test.
Both of them smile at me sympathetically as they prepare the vials, the needle, the antiseptic swab. The brunette holds down her arm as the blonde ties the tourniquet, waiting for the vein to swell purple in expectation of release. I place my right hand on my her chest, my left on her forehead, locking my gaze into her terrified eyes. Finally, the blonde begins easing in the needle with agonizing exactitude; my daughter begins to scream. Her jaw clenches, her body stiffening and then releasing to a tremor. I whisper urgently in her ear, trying to sound soothing: something about puppies, parks, playgrounds. She screams like one betrayed. My voice trembles as I emphasize the puppies.
The vein is too small. They draw only a few red sips of blood. The brunette bandages the rejected vein tightly, the blonde moving into the next arm, again with ponderous precision. Finally it takes, the vein delivering its scarlet gush into two vials. They pull out the needle, my whole body feeling the exhale of relief as they wrap her arm and slowly lift her to sitting. She flings herself on me, still screaming in a note I imagine as the color white- a tone that blanches skin.
"Results in 4 days," they say. "Don't take her anywhere until we give you a call."
"I can't hear them," yells my husband over her roar.
"Got it," I say, and they leave with the red vials.
"Can't take her out for four days," I tell him, and we sit and croon and feed her until she calms down.
We take her home and she falls asleep while breastfeeding. I break the sleep-training rules, not placing her in her crib, but holding her warmth against my chest, as if my closeness alone could ease out the illness, could draw it out like they drew her sick-thick blood.
“She is not mine,” my brain acknowledges. I close my eyes. "But she feels like mine. She is in my DNA and mine in hers, her future intertwined with my past, our lives bound by more than the blood which sinks her screams through my skin-" Sinks deep.
Her breath rises and falls, her fever long past.
I watch the sun come in strips through the blinds, patterning the carpeted silence of her room. The eggshell white crib, the light lavender script of a Hafiz poem framed on the wall, the ash gray paint of the sliding closet doors.
We are all held up by such delicate strings.
An hour and a half later, she wakes up and I stand her on her feet. She wanders a bit, still red-rashed, but pacified.
Our apartment is clean- floors spotless and sanitized, granite countertops wafting the light scent of citrus Clorox wipes. But as we play on her bedroom floor, I notice a fine layer of dust over the bottom bars of the rocking chair. This too I will clean, I think, as if cleaning dust could keep our dust-bodies from giving way, could keep our joy attached to these precarious strings.