Sometimes life “just goes on” – no problems. It’s a bit surreal, when that happens.
I am used to difficulty – problems of the people or problems of the mind – but for a while, just a few weeks, life seemed to go okay. I was working as an actor at the Police Academy, collecting Daniel from Chris or Aunty Karen’s; Daniel and me settled in the fall of night together, safe in the little abode I afforded us, wrapped in sheets and blankets, awaiting the next day.
Having every expectation there would be a next day.
Well, Chris does touch me when we’re in the same room together and I don’t like it, but I don’t know how to stop him. I don’t want his hand at my waist, that movement around to my belly, or him touching the cheeks of my buttocks. I don’t want him to stand close like he does sometimes, as if he is going to touch me more. But I don’t know how to stop him. So it happens.
It’s not the first time it has happened against my will – touch by man – and because I don’t know how to deal with it, I go into hyper-animated mode. I smile widely, say thanks for having Daniel, goodbye, glad he has eaten well.
And then, I swear Chris looks like ‘the man’ sometimes – Tracy behind him and me before him, a smirk across his face as he sees Daniel and me off. What ever did I once see in that man?
I don’t know what I expect from life.
I never expected to be sad almost every day of it, or insanely blithely ‘happy’ in spasms of the alternative; I never expected to love Daniel so deeply, and to feel non-love about family members (all of whom I ran from) – just general care for them as fellow human beings; I never expected to not love my husband, to wait for love to grow in me like he said it would – he was sure it would – but then leave him after nine years of togetherness because it never did. I never expected to actually need anyone. Those are just weakness, those days. It is far better to adjust to needing no-one, and not ever be let down. You have to help yourself or die. And people do die.
And I never expected to see what I detected to be sadness in Daniel.
Having handed me photographs of Daniel at his sister Karen’s house, together with her ‘report‘ of Daniel’s bowel movements, sleeps and meals of the day, Chris waited for me to have the appropriate reaction of gratitude at the mementos. But I just stared at the pictures.
“Chris,” I said, hoping not to offend him by any suggestion – and not making any suggestion, “Don’t you think he looks sad?” Daniel was at my feet and holding my leg, us on the verge of departure from Tracy’s home.
“What? What sad?” he said, brusquely.
“Just, if you look at his face, his eyes – don’t you think he looks sad?” I extended a photograph for Chris to look at more closely.
“Sad sad, happy happy. You look too close all the time everything.”
He didn’t take the photo for a second look.
I wondered what Tracy, in the background behind Chris, thought. I wanted to ask her, but didn’t want to cause a scene.
“He just wake from a nap!” Chris barked. “He wait for his mum! Can’t look happy all the time!”
I brought the photograph back to me. I felt uncertain. I did have a problem with analysing things too much – Chris was right, but… I looked at it closely, a bit longer. It really did seem to me that Daniel was sad.
In writings abound, is penned, ‘Time stood still’. But this time it really did.
I stood near Chris’ front door, Chris square-on in front of me. Tracy stood behind Chris a few lengths away, at her couch. The television was speaking at us all but not one of us was listening. And Phong, most surely was in his room and listening to our exchanges.
As I stared down at the photograph, my vision vagued over and I became aware of Daniel on the floor holding my leg, looking up at me. Had he seen these pictures? Do toddlers recognize themselves in pictures? We had only just got used to his fascination of himself in the mirror.
What reaction would Daniel have if I showed him? Would it be recall of a single moment, or recall of ‘bad times’. To this very day, the smell of hot water reminds me of the bad times at the orphanage – that carer, the sullen sallow one; the one with the so very tight lips.
Tracy made a noise of impatience.
I looked up again.
“Um. Thanks for taking care of Daniel,” I said.
She gestured acknowledgement slightly, with her head. Chris came close to me, which had the effect of me turning away toward the door, and thus he successfully moved us to exit.
Chris walked Daniel and me down Tracy’s front path. At each of those steps, I wanted to say more. But I was afraid to. How often did Chris leave Daniel with Tracy? With Karen? Of all the hours Chris said he was available to care for Daniel – of all of those hours, for how many did he in fact care for our son?
At Tracy’s front gate, I asked Chris would he be taking care of Daniel on Tuesday – himself?
“I take care. If I get feng shui appointment, I got to work. I tell you that already.”
“It’s just that, can’t you make feng shui appointments at times when you haven’t promised to care for our son?”
What did Daniel hear, understand, know?
Exasperated by me and irritated, Chris ushered us out of Tracy’s front gate and toward my Holden.
“I give you photo, you get problem. Aunty Karen give it to you a gift! You never happy. You ask too much.”
“But Chris – please, can’t you see – “
and somehow – I don’t know how man has this power over me, but somehow I was hushed, and then leaning into my car and strapping Daniel in. I was disconcerted, yes. I wanted to discuss my concerns with Chris, yes. But I was leaning into my car, buckling Daniel into his little seat, kissing his marshmallow cheeks, and then realising that Chris’ hand was feeling the curve of my arse. It felt firmly over one cheek, and moved to the flesh of the other.
I ducked out of the cabin of my car, stood up straight to face Chris. I looked immediately at the windows of Tracy’s house. I hoped she wasn’t peeking through the curtains – and hoped Phong wasn’t peeking through the curtains, either. How much did he see? What did he know?
No-one was peeking through curtains. Tracy was standing on her front porch, watching us.
Deeply, deeply embarrassed, I looked at Chris, flashed a quick wave goodbye to Tracy, and was just about to close the car door when Daniel said, “Number 5 top.” I ignored him, but he said it again, with some urgency, “Number 5 top!”
“Oh!” I said, searching Daniel to see if he had my Number 5 top with him. A charcoal coloured hoodie with a red number 5 on its front, my Number 5 top had become sort of a security blanket for Daniel. I wore it often, so it had my smell all over it. Daniel brought it every time I had to leave him somewhere. He held it, like a piece of me. I sort of liked that.
“Oh Chris! My Number 5 top! We almost forgot my Number 5 top!”
Chris looked at me. His irritation returned and flashed angrily all over his face, like little demon leprechauns doing little demon jigs. What a nuisance we women seem to be, to men. Men don’t seem to care in the same places we do. I felt bad.
“He be a Mother’s Boy! I tell you that already! He not need your top! He must learn separate from the mum!”
I was dumfounded. Did that mean Chris had taken my top from Daniel because he thought he would be a Mumma’s Boy?
“Chris, where’s the top, please?”
“He don’t need it!”
“Chris, it’s my top. I need it – I wear it. Daniel just likes it when I’m not there. That’s normal.”
“He a Mother’s Boy!”
This was horrible. I wanted my top back.
“Number 5 top!” Daniel said again from his seat in the car, anxiety now in his voice and a touch of a wail threatening.
“It’s in the wash!” Chris suddenly said.
Was it really, I wondered? It was possible.
“Tracy doesn’t have to wash it – that’s okay, I’ll wash it.”
“Too late! It’s in the wash!”
I looked beyond Chris at Tracy.
God, I hated how the people Chris had in his life stared at us whenever I came by. We really must be some kind of a freak show. Was it because I was the first of his women to challenge him? Is that what the fascination was, of our exchanges? I hated it.
I felt highly conscious that I needed to show Daniel how to treat women, and needed to show him that we would work things out. I sat back onto the car seat to be face to face with him. I tried to look positive and not worried.
“It’s okay Daniel,” I said. I leaned in and kissed his soft, soft cheek.
“Dadda’s going to wash it for us! We’ll get my Number 5 top next time!”
Daniel, at the mercy of adults in his life, had no option but to learn trust (or not). He had to venture in himself whether or not to trust what Mum said would be true. For one so young, pure on this Earth, that was easy. He calmed down.
But as Daniel calmed and I smiled at him with my face of hope and positivity, a dagger cracked the bones of my rib cage. I jolted – sort of like had a twitch – at the force of consciousness which had been ignored. The dagger pointed its silver tip into my heart then shoved hard to penetrate my inner wisdom, and pierced me.
As the first drop of blood cried from my heart at grief to come, and splattered upon the leather of my car seat, Chris walked away. He had had enough.
(Author’s note: I wrote this Saturday morning 16 Mar’13, & cried at the end.
I then edited it, & cried at the end.
I broke away,
made tea and toasted cheesies for Daniel and me,
then returned to re-draft this,
& cried at the end.
It is now some 15 1/2 years since this day,
and I still cry at my utter dumbness.
I am politely warning you Readers, this reality is harrowing to me,
so if you have issues around abuse, low boundaries,
self esteem, self damage,
truly think whether you can handle this telling
- or perhaps may rather read it as one book whole,