there is a stretch of years—how long, it depends—where you’re too big to fit at your mother’s table, but too small to reach across your own. too old to fall asleep in your childhood bed, but too young to keep your limbs to yourself. years when every workday’s closing credits are a dark house and a frozen dinner, and fights with friends empty you like an apocalypse. when the words “emergency contact” feel existential, and insomnia spools a night out into a three lifetimes and a half. all dust and silence. years when you spend a thousand nights searching strangers’ faces for a sign—but what it looks like, you’re not quite sure. could those hands soothe a infant? do you want to hear about their day 46,790 more times? years watching couple after couple promise forever after a year and two months, and then congratulating yourself for not being so impulsive. and yet: your stomach sinking deeper. is the loneliness worth the happiness, not guaranteed? you are a Russian nesting doll carrying a child inside your adult armor—but you don’t always kiss her like her mother would. push her hair back like a partner. sometimes you forget that you, too, can hum her to sleep.