the jagged edges of the concrete sidewalks looked cold, hard, unforgiving. the world was suddenly too big, too fast. people touched his hands, his feet, his head, made comments. only days before he had been inside my body and now he seemed so exposed. people were trying to hold him, make him look at them, calling his name... he was on display. he was everybody's now, not just mine. i wanted to protect him, i wanted to put him back inside of me so that he would stay safe. the house, the room, the walls, the bed, my baby laying beside me. sleeping and nursing. watching him. minutes after leaving the room i'd be checking to see if he was still there, and not some fabricated thing of my wildest imaginings. nothing i have ever experienced felt as good as loving Ricky. holding him healed me. sleeping nose to nose i inhaled him. i even licked him once on his head to see what it felt like. when the sunlight from the window hit his skin it revealed a map of tiny intricate veins running just below, luminated and transparent. he is whole. he is perfect. how did i do that? i rocked and swung and sang and snuggled. i indulged in the bliss of new motherhood. he became all of my reasons.
about 6 months later when the baby buzz settled and the fatigue lifted i realized that i was alone again. long days in the house with a new baby. no friends. another country. i visited R at his office but never had anything to actually talk to him about. the phone would ring and i'd be put on hold, one second, just a minute, this is an important call. it was money on the other line. R was a criminal defence attorney. the client loitering around school yards after prior convictions of molestation deserved a fair defence didn't he? the money paid in his defence were the clothes on my back, the food on my plate, the house over my head. my son's education. i had no right to complain about. its hard to swallow so you lie to yourself about where it comes from and what it is. everyone earns a living. everyone deserves a fair trial. waiting, forever waiting to be judged.
i had to fly home every 3 mos as not to overstay my continual back to back visitor visa's and it wasn't long until i got detained with the baby in US customs because they suspected i was running drugs. US customs have no sense of humour. of course i had to mouth off which resulted in a search. they even took off Ricky's diaper and searched him. i bawled. it wasn't an internal search but still i was suspected of hiding drugs in my child's diaper. i had to fly back and forth because i had no status in the US. i was unmarried. it was R's fault i was in fucking limbo. i put the heat on him and after months and months of avoiding, fighting and me pushing him so hard about what we were doing he finally asked me to marry him because he was between a rock and a hard place. me being the hard place. a plane flew overhead with a long banner that ead 'heather-will you marry me' i felt sick with anxiety. my stomach dropped and heaved. my vision blurred and everything got quiet, like when you have a car accident. things move in slow motion. have you ever said yes but meant no? the biggest baddest diamond yet. the one that would ruin everything.
well now that i had made him do that, i was filled with remorse and resentment over him not wanting too initially. over it being me who had insisted. i mindlessly sorted through paint samples because it must be the walls, not me. i waited for his call to ask about my day and confirm my existence. i became extremely restless. i paced. i cleaned the house manically and frantically. i ate once a day. at 5'9 with a normal weight of 145 lbs i had gone down to 129lbs. Ricky weighed something like 40 lbs at 10 mos. 1/3 the size of me. in the late afternoons i drank a few glasses of wine knowing i wouldn't have to drive anywhere. i'd be all dolled up and ready to be taken out for dinner somewhere fancy... just enough of a buzz to go undetected if i brushed my teeth and enough to carry on into the 'controlled' 2 glasses with dinner. sometimes Ricky would have loose diarrhea's from the red wine i drank because i was nursing. i started chain smoking again. the only places i ever went were the beach and the library. i wandered without meaning or purpose. i was connected to nothing. Sally, the lady at the thrift shop was my closest friend. i liked that she believed i was happy. ooohing and aaahing at the baby, the ring and my stories. telling me how she wished she could find a good man.
i couldn't contain my angst, my need to escape. R was never home and worked later and later. i met a girl down the street who was also stuck at home with a baby, she lived in the back suite of her inlaw's house. her boyfriend had gone'away'. caught, wouldn't rat out the guys who had gotten away so he went in for 2 years. their son a little boy with gold cuban chains and curly brown hair. he played with Ricky while her and i drank, smoked and occasionally snorted a few lines. we'd drive over to the trailer court where R's secretary lived and buy coke. babies crying in car seats, being held in laps. shame always close to the surface. why when i had it so good. when my heart had finally been lifted up and filled with love from my child did i seek out the hurt, still. why was it always only a few breathes below my consciousness? what was wrong with me?
R and i fought constantly. one night a huge argument at the front door of his house. it wasn't good enough. i was lonely and angry and emptier than ever. in his face saying money wasn't love. but you sure can spend the money! he shoved me, i slapped back at him. he pushed me into the wall my face against the door. struggling. screaming. hitting, he back handed me hard across my face. Ricky had fallen off the bed in the back room onto the tile floor and was crying. i was wearing white shorts and a white tank top, looking into the hallway mirror at my reflection i saw my nose and lip bleeding. my baby wearing a white diaper and a white tank top came walking down the hallway towards me having hit his face on the floor, his nose and lip bleeding....and in that moment i saw it. my son...my mirror image...what i let happen to me i inadvertently allowed to happen identically to him. the visual was life changing. i was done. we had paper's drawn up by a lawyer friend of R's. custody arrangements for the next 18 years of my child's life on paper. who pays what, who see's him when. sharing holidays and birthday's. 2 weeks later i was gone. looking down over the florida key's glistening in their infamous sunset. paradise lost.
calgary. sort of close to home and sort of not. the world had a faulty seam and i had maliciously torn it right apart. names called, screaming matches on the phone. we dont have enough, we can't afford rent/to eat/live. you dont deserve my money, it was your choice to leave me. slamming the phone down and dialling again back and forth verbal bashing for hours. tears. punched walls. harsh words. very very harsh words. you stole my son. you worthless cunt. dirty stupid whore. worst mother in the world. your going to fuck him up. i hope you rot in hell. i drank and drank and drank. i drank for an entire year. Ricky wasn't talking like normal kids at his age. he didn't respond when i asked him things. he lined things up across the floor. he watched fans for hours laying on his back looking up totally engrossed in the constant movement. he spun cars wheels repeatedly and wouldn't make eye contact. he stacked cans of soup on my kitchen floor. he opened and closed doors without entering the room, pushed the same button a million times on his computer just to hear the same noise again and again. even though he was away somewhere in his own little world, he must have seen that alcohol, that opening a bottle is what i did to feel better in mine. the memory of my 2 year old son bringing me the bottle opener still brings tears to my eyes. i didn't see him.... but he saw me.