This is my second attempt at #Fridayflash. My own feeling is that there is still something lacking in this – but I was so keen to continue being part of the ‘gang’, that I was eager to post anyway. As John Connolly said recently ‘part of the joy of writing is getting it nearly right, so you can do better next time.’
Anyway, here it is – I appreciate the time you’re taking to read it:
I don’t love you. I know I have responsibilities towards you and I carry them out with impeccable attention to detail. But it’s performed, with complete detachment and dispassion.
Is it terrible of me to wish that you had never been born? I resent that you have arrived and taken over my life. Tom gets to go to work – to escape. I don’t. I’m stuck here with you. Just the two of us. All day every day.
What have I become that the highlight of my existence is going to the supermarket? In fact, it’s more than that; going to the supermarket is an achievement. I have to have us both up and dressed appropriately for the weather. Then, I have to make sure I’ve got all the paraphernalia with me – nappies, wipes, a spare set of clothes, a clean bottle, cooled boiled water and the formula. Oh! I tried to breastfeed. It was a bloody nightmare. The nurses in the hospital didn’t know one end of a tit from the other. And they kept scaring me by telling me that you were starving to death while I was busy trying to get it right. It was a relief to give it up.
Inevitably, I forget to pick something up in the supermarket. Even if it’s on my shopping list. This makes me feel like a failure and can reduce me to tears. I am used to being competent, in control, capable. I am used to being looked up to as a remarkable woman with drive and ambition. Now, I can’t manage to get the grocery shopping done.
I have become a frightened person. A wave of fear washes over me when Tom leaves for work in the morning. I am afraid something will happen that I won’t be able to cope with. I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of the day that yawns ahead of me. I know it’s ridiculous. That’s why I can’t tell him. What would he think of me if I told him I was engulfed by fear every time he walks out the door?
I turn on the cooker to heat some soup for my lunch, and the image of me sitting you on the hotplate flashes through my mind – terrifying me. I know I wouldn’t do it, but the fact that I can see myself doing it means that I might, doesn’t it? I put you in another room before I turn the cooker on, in case I’m tempted. I’m afraid to tell anyone in case they take you away from me. Isn’t that farcical? I don’t want you, but I don’t want you to be taken from me.
Have I lost myself? If I have, where have I gone? Will I ever come back? When I return to work, will I be able to do my job?
Maybe it would be different if you were pretty. I can’t quite understand why you’re not. There is no one in my family or your father’s who looks like ET. Yet you do. Look at you – a big fat head on your long, wobbly neck. You’re supposed to be a little girl, yet anything less feminine I have never seen in my life. You’re all blubbery limbs with no hair and muddy brown eyes.
‘Oh! She’s so beautiful!’ strangers exclaim. I look at them like they’re nuts. Do they think that I don’t have eyes in my head? Do they think that I can’t see how un-beautiful you are? I suppose no one is going to come right out and say ‘Here, Missus – your kid is dog-ugly’ but they could say things like……… well, I don’t know. They could comment on how happy you are or something.
‘Is she good for you?’ they ask. It’s a stupid question, but I know what they mean. They mean ‘Does she disrupt your life as little as possible?’ So my answer, almost grudgingly, is ‘yes’. You’re probably a dream baby. That, too, terrifies me. I remember hearing how babies who die of SIDS are ‘mail order’ babies. What would I do if I woke up one morning and you didn’t?
Tom gets in from work and scoops you up into his strong, capable arms. He coos at you and tells you he’s missed you. He asks me for updates. I tell him that you spend much of the day sleeping, a good part of it feeding and some part of it shitting.
Tom is a marvellous man – which is why I can’t tell him that I don’t love you. You’re his child as well, and Tom deserves to have his child loved by the mother of his child. I am filled with sorrow at my further failure – this inability to love Tom’s child. Sometimes I think the two of you would be better off without me. Tom could remarry. She – his second wife – would be vivacious, witty, sexy and a great mother to you. Maybe your new mother would even give you siblings.
Some days I think about leaving you and driving into the sea. I am filled with a jittery feeling that is edged with power. I know I am capable of it. Then I think of Tom and I know I probably won’t. I love him too much to hurt him.
I feel sorry for you because you have done nothing wrong and yet you don’t have the love of your mother. I know you’re entitled to it, but I can’t give it to you. That adds to my resentment. It’s like, by your very existence, you are pointing out a glaring failure on my part.
Maybe you’ll grow on me. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and adore you. I hope so. I suppose, for now, it’s enough that I’m doing my best for you. Even though it’s my perfunctory – rather than my heartfelt – best.