She told me in confidence that she thought she gave birth to a monster. She looked to make sure that nobody was near; her eyes darted down and she whispered it. “A monster.” The odd thing is that his birth had been so peaceful that January evening. Quiet room, dim lights, hushed voices late at night, and he just slipped out. He just slipped out. Absolutely no pain, it’s baffling.
She told me that when he was born he looked like a little alien. He hardly slept for 2 years, and his hunger was insatiable. When he cried, her heart would race and her eardrums would go numb. She would catch him staring in his crib at things she could not see. Stare so long, his eyes would drip water. But he would twirl her hair when she nursed him and when she draped his warm body over her shoulder to burp him; she would feel the softness of his cheek against hers so intently, she’d fall in love with him all over again. She’d forgive him for all those sleepless nights and all those staring fits that would leave him unsettled and clingy.
She told me that the time after he became adorable, he learned to walk. He walked a little late. He took to the habit of running from things that weren’t there and he would fall and scream into her bosom. He would look up at the ceiling with a face of horror until Zonegran stopped the infantile spasms. He said the fan blades were covered with blood. He would see pizza on the walls and see shadows move without light. And when they were trying to be good Catholics, he would say the inside of their church smelled like old people’s burning flesh. But he looked so cute when he played on his wooden airplane and when he wore that adorable Janie and Jack puppy sweater; she’d fall in love with him all over again. She’d try to forget all those odd images he put in her head and those strange things he whispered in her ear. She tried to forget her anxiety over all the tests he had and medications he tried. She’d try to crush the panic that would wake her in the middle of night.
She told me that when school started he had a hard time paying attention, hit the teachers, and would play chase without their permission. He would cry for an hour before school would start and his dad would have to carry him to the car while he put up a fight. But he would draw her pictures and write, I love you Mommy. He’d ask so sweetly, “Do you want a hug?” She’d fall in love with him all over again. She’d forgive all those meetings she had at the school and tried not to grow jaded when explaining his situation. She was always explaining the situation.
She told me about one day in March when she received a phone call from the school to pick her son up early because he had lost control in the classroom. She walked tall into the special classroom and apologized for all the books and chairs strewn all over the room. “Really, he knows better,” she’d say while looking in their eyes brimming with pity. She reached for her son’s hand, walked out of the building, and made it to her car before she collapsed and cried. She cried for 2 straight hours and couldn’t even make dinner; she was too full with sorrow. She was exhausted and felt helpless.
She told me that he could dream of the future and have night terrors that haunted him for weeks. He’d get up at odd hours of the night to gather and cut up his clothes. He’d sprinkle cinnamon all over the house 2 days before Christmas because he liked the smell. And dump baby powder all over his room because he said, “I miss the snow.” She looked surprisingly good for being awake all that time.
She told me that when he got older, the monster in him evolved. Taller than her – in some ways smarter than her. He was moody and sad, happy and mad. Up and down he went. Around and around he went. He was always able to lure her into his trap. He would even catch her eyebrow twitch and it seemed that he could read her mind before she spoke. He was always inches from her – never far. Circling around her – this way and that way. Pecking at her, laughing at her, chasing her, clawing at her – this human that had just slipped out into the world. She took to the habit of wearing long sleeve cardigans in the most humid of conditions and would think, it just isn’t fair.
And then she told me that, overnight, she became incredibly fond of the drink. One glass at dinner, then another before bed. She’d wake up with headaches and become so depressed that she’d wish she were dead. Her entire being was filled with fright and even her soul, her aching soul, would mourn for it to be over. And she felt betrayed because she asked, “Isn’t your soul supposed to be stronger?” Traitor, she’d call it. She said she felt empty and blank.
“How much can one vessel hold?” she’d ask. And with every night that she went to bed thinking she was done, she’d wake up and start it all over again. Each and every night, each and every day. She then told me that when the best place in the nation said, “Your son is a candidate for our inpatient program,” she was surprised to be hit by grief instead of relief. A few moments passed and then she just stopped.
She told me in confidence that she wanted to tempt fate in a sea of aqua glass full of teeth and feel the wind rush past her face. Witness the brown clouds get taken over by the foam. Feel the pull toward the moon and float. Revel in that and not talk about home.