Survival instinct

One night I went to check up on my sleeping five-year-old. Her bed was empty and her bedroom window was open. There was no screen to the window, just a child-sized entrance to our third floor balcony. I called out her name and no reply. I searched our small apartment and did not see or hear her anywhere. I expected that I would get emotional, that my ever-present anxiety would kick in and I would become a sobbing mess. Instead I thought to myself, oh so matter of factly, “She is missing and I need to call the police.” My heart did not race, instead it beat slowly and deliberately. My hands did not shake. Tears did not stream down my face and my mouth did not tighten. My mind remained clear, almost empty. I went into my room and reached under the side of my bed, where I keep my phone when I’m asleep, prepared to make ‘the call’. And there she was, curled up with a bed sheet, sleeping soundly.

I let out a breath, previously unaware of how long I had been holding it in. I gently woke her and guided her back to bed, locking her window and making a mental note to remind the landlord, yet again, about the screen. I tucked her in, she was already asleep by the time her blankets fell at her shoulders. I climbed into my own bed, getting under the blankets as my head settled heavily into my pillows, and cried.

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