I saw Wendy’s large blue, expectant eyes as if they were the only pair of eyes in the airport lounge. She smiled as soon as she saw Daniel and me.
I walked through the milling crowd, toward relief. I didn’t mean to see it that way, but I did. I had been ‘on guard’ for 11 months, being a mother whereas I did not how to ‘mother’; only how to love. I had not ever loved anyone in my decades on this Earth, but when Daniel’s tiny being first lay in my arms, on how to love I became enlightened.
Daniel was consumed by the busy-ness of the airport, the crowd, the Customs Officers and dogs intently sniffing baggage. It was a hub of humans flocked together but flying in different directions.
“Look! There’s Aunty Wendy!” I said, pointing in Wendy’s direction. Daniel looked, and I watched his face as recognition registered. God, I loved his deep brown eyes flickering with light and intensity, intelligence and beauty.
“Ba-de bummmm, da….” – and on he went. A string of musical babble flowed from Daniel’s mouth, spilled over the suitcases and bags, and the heads of little children beneath him, high on my hip. I didn’t know what Daniel said, but he was alive and kicking after his fine snooze on the flight, was certain.
“Hi Noeleen!”, Wendy said, stepping forward to meet us.
“Hi Wendy” I said, and smiled. It was a tight smile, for really I was so at the end of my tether, I felt ready to collapse. Wendy said hello to Daniel. He gurgled in response, and as Wendy tended to him with love and tickles, I mentally began to count down the minutes when I would be able to lie prostate, close my eyes, and know that Daniel was in good hands.
I had had to steal my one and only respite of the last 11 months from Daniel’s father, by not returning him when I should have, and I never wanted to be in that position again. I needed to strengthen and recoup, and return to Perth able to deal with Chris’ barking at me, inclinations to see Daniel and then non-interest for weeks on end; his non-contribution to Daniel’s existence yet expectation, and my relent, that he carry him proudly into various family gatherings. I wanted Daniel to know both his mother and his father, but Chris’ ease and breeze of having Daniel at his convenience – and never otherwise – was not right, and my tolerance of the imbalance paid a heavy toll on me physically. When I returned to Perth, I decided, I would be more assertive and stronger.
Wendy took Daniel from me, which was fine, but then gave me a hug. That panic of another human closing in on me struck again and I endured her hug because I knew it was the expected thing for a sister to do. I wished I could express to Wendy – and have her listen – that I preferred to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ without her body merging with mine, and lingering a waft of her perfume on my skin. It was my body, and as surely as I had given myself to men; so surely too had I been taken. Why, why could I not stop people from erasing my line in the sand? Would I one day be 70 and still unable to stop a man from breaking open my diary? Why did my lock not work? Did I have a lock – wasn’t I born with one – aren’t we all?
“How was the flight?” Wendy asked as we stood by the carousel, waiting for my one big suitcase to arrive.
“Good” I said, to fill the space. I could not tell Wendy real moments of my life, for she never related – or even, as far as I could tell from her struggling facial expressions, understood. Such ventures by me in the name of connection never succeeded because I would often have to explain to Wendy my unsaid. I was like a poem she could not read the tune of, and vice-versa. Where one penned haiku, coughed a verse.
Time led us to Wendy’s apartment where the thud of the suitcase I dropped on her floor resounded my utter fatigue. I could hardly remain awake while she made us tea, settled Daniel on the floor with some toys, animated a fluffy bunny in his face and queried me how life was. I didn’t want to tell Wendy how life was because I did not want to tell her how I lay staring at the ceiling sometimes with tears in my eyes, as Daniel played alone on the floor near my bed. It was better to tell her how I read to him at night and he giggled at my expressions and silly moods, and our joy bubbled together like a foaming happiness. I did not want to tell Wendy how Robert had ambushed me with his friend, naked and so ready, and how that affected me and how naive and dumb I was. It was better to tell her how Tom held Daniel high in his hands, six feet tall and more, and smiled at him with a genuineness I never saw from Chris. I did not want to tell Wendy how often I had contemplated suicide in my life, let alone how much I was drawn to that solution while pregnant, not to mention how it still plagued my mind – even sometimes on sunny days. It was better to tell her how Daniel had first taken to the ocean, how his feet curled up upon initial touch by Nature’s frothing glee, but warily dangled them down again; and sprung back up quickly at Nature’s next assault of wondrous freedom in our lives so simply magnificent… that I could cry.
There was so much (dense) black and (bright) white of me…it just wasn’t black-and-white. How could I explain that?
Dedication (updated Sat 13 Oct)
This post is dedicated to my sister ‘Deana’ who received a whack of pages of hateful content from same as stalker, who lives 700+ kilometres away but hand delivered it to her, adorning the envelope with ‘SHUT YER MOUTH’. ‘Deana’, who hasn’t had a psychotic episode in near 15 years, had a breakdown following receipt of that letter, and has since been in a psych hosp in Melbourne. The psychiatrists in consult with ‘Deana’ identified it was that letter which “set her off”. ’
‘Deana’, your stand-by-you boyfriend says you didn’t tell me about it because you were afraid it would be too much “more” for me to bear from her but Di, please, please tell me next time, and let me help you.
Subbers, I printed this chapter for ‘Deana’, to show her the dedication & comments, & so she may know the people who read the lived days of Daniel & me are people who have known, or known someone, affected by abuse, mental illness, lack of support, bullying etc. Your regard for ‘Deana’ is appreciated.
And hey, ‘Deana’ remembers this happy day….