With everything before me, everything yet to be done, I could not help but do it.
To live in disarray would remind me too badly of our old Housing Commission house, where dad raised me from age 10. I had become a thorough, detailed cleaner in separation from that house – the icy cold I woke to gloomy mornings, knowing dad’s room was warm like a sauna as he bought only one heater for the household, and it was for him; the pile of clothes in the middle of my room from which I lifted my thin school dress and underwear, wore yet another day; the depression like low-hanging clouds, oppressive – I gasped for breath – the kitchen with only randomly more than beer and sultanas in it. I had to get our new home into shape. Immediately.
Tirelessly I worked, and as I did, Daniel’s happy disposition became ragged. He wanted more in life than to see me unpacking clothes into cupboards, crockery and cutlery too, pots, miscellany into kitchen drawers, pushing the fridge into place, our toiletries into the bathroom. More and more broken felt my back as I lifted, pushed, bent and dragged our new home into shape. It was only 24 hours since I had scrubbed out our old flat, wiped over the floors with a wet cloth on my hands and knees because I consider mops inefficient, polished all the windows and latches. And less than 24 hours since I had near drowned by Tracy and her energies.
Now it was all out of the bag and Tracy no doubt had complained to Chris that the mother of his child said she’d committed child abuse – though I did not – I would be able to talk with Chris. I guess something good had come of it.
Yet, I had spoken with Chris months ago. I had told him I didn’t feel comfortable with him leaving Daniel with Tracy. He’d asked why and objected at first, then simply elected not to.
“OK, I won’t”, he’d said, which disarmed me. I could say no more when he said that.
But Chris did not keep his word. Again, he had spoken the words he believed served the moment, honouring not a breath.
When finally I was done late in the afternoon, when Daniel and me were placed, no longer misplaced, I begged a long soak in a warm bath. However, for Daniel I took us out the door.
On the beach Daniel wanted breeziness and joy from me, energy to play and giggle with him. However, tears were in my eyes and an anchor was on my heart. I could only sit by him as he occupied himself, and smile by my lips only as he showed me lumps of wetted sand sliding through his fingers, a hole he had dug.
- I wrote later that night when finally Daniel’s long dark eyelashes rested over his eyes; when his marshmallow soft cheeks dented slightly, momentarily, as my lips touched them in loving kiss; when a tear escaped my eye and splashed against his blankets as I stood back to hold my mouth and my heart, ‘knowing’ but not knowing something was wrong in the world.
“I thought at first it was because of the shunting from him to me but I feel so sure now it is more, it is something else. I just wish I understood.”
“Aaargh, I can’t move my legs!” I said with a sliver of energy as Daniel dumped wet sand over my knees and shins. He giggled. But he knew I wasn’t really there.
- I wrote with the last breaths of energy available to me at the end of that day, trauma in my heart trying to speak to my mind, to formulate a voice.
I have to think of how to break us from this man. I feel truly it would be doing you a favour – YOUR LIFE, YOUR FUTURE. xxxx Mama”
And down I lay my pen, looked into the darkness outside my window, heard the traffic on Stirling Highway, felt again so isolated, the keeper of Daniel and me.
I could not ring my sisters in Melbourne. I was not on a real level with either of them. Neither knew my life. They only knew Daniel is a cherub. They only knew Perth is sunny. They only knew I am getting by and nothing could have me return to Melbourne, for I could not live in the same State where my father breathed, existed. They didn’t know quite how truly, but I could not ever return to Melbourne where echoed still that little girl me, crying in my father’s household, a jar of psychiatric and sleeping pills stolen from my father’s floor at side for when I could not take any more pain – really, really could not take any more pain.
Nor could I ring my sister in Adelaide. If changing your surname by deed poll to disconnect from family didn’t say clearly enough you wish not to be of our vein, nothing would.
I took one last look at my sleeping son. I turned off the light and crawled into that haven, bed. I drew the covers tightly around me and wondered, I wondered how I could disconnect Chris from Daniel’s life now Daniel was two years old and Chris had established rights of contact.
The reality was, I could not.