I scramble down the steps, feeling my way against the blue black shadow walls, picture frames swaying and little puffs of moonlit dust reminding me to clean.
I push open her bedroom door and stumble inside. She's a shapeless mess in the bed.
"Daddy," she cries, "Daddy I can't stay here. I can't. I need to sleep with you guys."
I can't remember the last time she's said this, if she's ever said this. I pick her up and hold her close and together we knock against the picture frames and sneeze and slump into bed, where she spends the next few hours jabbing her elbows into my back and her feet into my ribs. How her knee winds up on my cornea I'll never know, but I watch her sleep for a moment, calm again, safe and warm between the two of us.
The whole story comes out the next day.
"I was actually having good dreams," she explains, "But then I'd be walking along and all of a sudden this blobby ghost appears on the walls and its eyes ... follow me. And all it says is "Hello. Hello. Hello.""
She sleeps fine that night, but I lay awake for hours, scanning the walls for eerie blobs and listening to the howling mistrals outside.
"Hello," they seem to whisper, "Hello, hello, hello."
So I'm a wreck the next day -- having spent one night with tiny knees pincushioning my body and the next lying there all night, scared of my child's nightmares.
We go to the drugstore in the morning. Dana needs tampons. Emme and I pick them up and she asks what they are and why there are pearls on the box.
"So pretty," she says, fingering the box, "Can I wear them?"
But the everyday intervenes and soon we're scouring the store for dish soap and protein bars and in a sleepless fog I wonder if that isn't Garcia Lorca by the watermelons.
Later, she spies them in the bathroom.
"So what are those for again?" she wants to know.
Dana has just hopped out of the shower and I hear her stop midway to the bedroom and inch her way back toward us, as if waiting for a really good show. I imagine her on the other side of the door, holding up a towel with one hand and covering her mouth with the other, maybe considering a quick trip to the kitchen for some popcorn and a coke.
"Well," I begin, "They're kind of like a Band-Aid. For your vagina."
"For my vagina?"
"Uh huh, remember we talked about eggs and sperm and babies?"
I pause, wondering why her eyes are so big.
"You mean my vagina's going to bleed?"
In retrospect, if someone had told me that my penis would one day, out of the blue, just start to bleed uncontrollably, I probably would start screaming, too.
I go to bed that night knowing that sleep is futile, that I'll be up in just a few hours, feeling my way against the blue black walls and then battling again with tiny feet and sharp elbows.
"Ghosts," I'll chide myself, "She's going to wish her nightmares were about ghosts."