Her little arms flop around my sides while I push her up and down with big breaths. I try to imagine how it must feel; the heartbeat, the airway, the warmth, as womb like as possible since exiting the real thing.
In this moment, I know exactly what I’m doing. No doubts, no distractions, just the purity of looking after a helpless being that needs my care and protection.
Then you come in and I feel tension stab at my bubble. At least you can’t shout at me for not helping, but still it’s there; a flame waiting to spark.
It’s source is tiredness, the deep and withering kind. This is added to by frustration at being denied a life in order to care for another. Additional combustion comes from a sense of guilt about daring to feel that way.
All that’s needed are a few words.
What’s the matter?
And we’re off.
“Why?” screams Charlie. “Why?” His little voice wavers into falsetto tones as he swings his bag against a parked car.
“Because I already bought you one, now come on!” She senses eyes on her, but they’re nothing new, like a lifetime of mosquitoes.
Charlie’s wailing seems to take the capacity out of his legs, so she drags his flaying body along behind the pushchair. Meanwhile, Hayley starts to mimic her brother and the noise jabs. “Shutup, both of you!”
The sun is heating up the hard ground and sweat breaks out in the creases of her body. Strangely, the chorus of yelling from behind the gates is a comfort, absorbing her own wretched voice. She watches Charlie traipse into the melee of children with a gaze that’s already fading.
Back home, busted toys and unopened bills pave the way to the kitchen. She finds a half-pack and lights one up, sucking hard at it like its fresh air while she checks her phone for anything. In the background, Hayley is screeching again, but its her own whys that reverberate the loudest against the flaking walls.