I feel it faintly at first. It’s far off in the distance, yet it gently tugs at me again and again and won’t stop. The slow persistence of the cry continues to pull at me, louder and stronger. I open my eyes and I’m in bed. The crying is somewhere close.
My heart beats into a slow consciousness. I’m alone, and in the dimness of the room, something has shifted, and I’m there. The same light blue sheets and cream waffle blanket are in a tousled mess around me. Then Weight descends and settles in its usual spot on my shoulders. Daddyken’s in hospital Weight tells me. He’s there.
I roll onto my back, and my heart gains further speed as Weight calls its friend Despair to lodge in its familiar spot in my heart. I sit up, and the cool air envelopes me. They’re back. Did they ever leave? I feel the walls, the floor and the ceiling move in on me.
The intense rays of the afternoon sun frame the edges of the wooden window blinds. A solar eclipse just for me. I shudder as my hot feet touch the cold wooden floor. I can feel the heat of the sun as I stand next to the window and rest my burning cheek on the cold pale blue brick wall of my room.
My heart goes into a gallop, my breath speeds up. I look at myself in the green translucent glass of the wardrobe door and see her again. There’s Fear. With Despair. And my mind is a loud jumble of pain.
The cry becomes desperate. In a trance, I walk to the familiar white door as my heart bolts over to greet Dread. Despair is growing. I feel Desperate. With these old friends, I pull open the door and the cry is loud. It’s somewhere. It’s calling for me. I drag my feet down the dark hallway and stop at the first door. I pull my breath in. She’s not there. No crib, no nappies. Single bed. Study desk. Ok breath. Please breath.
But I can’t seem to return.
At the next door, the crying envelopes me. I rush over to pick my baby up. It’s not Panda. It’s Soccer Boy. It’s not Panda. His chubby cheeks are wet with tears. He’s heavy.
I sit down and feed him. I’m alone with these old friends. I close my eyes momentarily and notice the room has a different smell. The white sleigh cot is the same. It’s in a different spot. The window is larger. The change mat is yellow with blue checks. No teddy bear print. I look at him as he suckles. This baby is wearing blue. Blue. He suckles differently. He’s bigger. Bald. It’s different.
I feel a shift as I breath in. I don’t think it’s that time. Daddyken’s not in hospital…he hasn’t just had a stroke. It’s not that time. Yes, not that time. It’s a different time. Not that time. And then finally, finally, the spell is broken as my body starts to shake as my heart swells out of my chest and I burst into a spasm of grief-laden tears, tears which fall like they did in his sister’s time, tears laced with all the Dread and Despair and Desperation of that Time. Tears which eventually drain Weight away. And with a shudder of relief, I kiss Soccer Boy’s soft warm head. And hold him tightly to me as I ride that last familiar wave of hopelessness from all those years ago.
A few months after Daddyken’s stroke shattered our equilibrium and I was scrambling to piece it back together with Panda in my arms, I resolved never, ever to have another child. I had no wish to return to the horror that shadowed me all that summer, autumn, winter and spring.
Of course, we eventually crawled out of that abyss, and found a different life and a different happiness on a different level of equilibrium. And so 5 years after that time, we found the strength to have Soccer Boy.
Perhaps I was naïve, but I thought that the trauma from those earlier years was done. A memory filed away and a time already dealt with. But it was really only biding its time until the conditions were right. A baby. Another hot summer. Same house. And if I didn’t concentrate, if I lost my focus momentarily, then something would shift, and I would be back there. I would relive that horror. I would ride that wave again. And again.
Soccer Boy is 6 now, and looking back, it took about 10 months for me to achieve another level of equilibrium.
It took 10 months for me to be reassured that I was not back there. That I was here. That Daddyken would walk through that front door. He’d be without a sling for his arm, without a brace for his foot, without the pronounced limp in his step and without the need for assistance with his buttons. That I would pick Panda up from school. That Soccer Boy is in this new time. This new equilibrium. Because I was not back there. I’m here.