"Only if you try to sleep, love." She giggled. Rolled over.
She sat up, adjusted her shirt. "What are you doing, sweetie?" Would you give me belly rubs?
I moved my fingers across her skin. I thought about my nails. They're just the length I find prettiest, but it's too long for rubs. I kept my fingers flat. I drew circles across her.
I felt her muscles ripple under the slightest layer of fat, all that remains from her sweet baby belly. I felt her breathing slow. I thought of dolphins.
In my childhood there were dolphins. We were this small town with this strangely spectacular little aquarium and it had dolphins. Our across-the-street neighbor was the aquarium's marine biologist and later I'd babysit his kids. I rubbed their bellies when they couldn't sleep. But first there were the dolphins, and I rubbed their bellies and their backs and their noses and then one day some authority said our small aquarium's small tank was too small for dolphins and the dolphins were gone, but not until after I had a childhood of dolphin-rubbing. They're smooth and strong, dolphins. And kid bellies.
I traced her lowest ribs, and the line between her muscles leading from the apex and through her navel. Like two tablets, like the ten commandments, and as a Jewish girl who studied a ton of Christian history for her art history degrees I always thought, surely this is another interpretation for the word of God made flesh. I felt her strength, her might, her ability, her gentility, her all-she-might-become and surely that is a living prayer, and so I rubbed.
I rubbed and thought of dolphins and holiness and her future and her tender skin, rising and falling and the gift of her request for my touch and when after hours or seconds she wasn't giggling and wasn't talking and wasn't responding, I rubbed one more touch, for love or for luck or because she's getting so big she might any day decide she's too big for my rubs, and then I left.