He came out of playgroup as full o’ beans as he went in, Tiggered all the way home, and collapsed on the sofa.
“Can I watch a film?”
A Disney (almost unavoidable), the music began, opening credits rolled and the fairytale castle appeared.
As I walked away, his little voice announced, laden with excitement:
I am suffering from it.
He knocked on my door this morning, brandishing the money, chuffed to bits.
Later, I found him secreting it in his purse.
He looked up, his face suddenly twisted in anguish.
“You’re not the tooth fairy, are you Mummy?”
His gaze full of doubt and hope; my heart was too large for its skin.
We were having quite a serious chat, as I recall, me and Bert. About playgroup and friends and Lego Star Wars.
You know the kind of thing. Or maybe you don’t. There is, after all, only one Bert.
He ended our conversation thus:
“And if I drink the potion…”
“… I’ll grow boom-booms.”
There’s no coming back from that.
“Sit down, be quiet and smile nicely.
Pass me that box over there, the one containing your autonomy. I’ll have that.
And that one, the one that contains your thoughts. I’ll have that, too.
We’ll just junk that one, the one labelled ‘feelings’. You don’t need them.
I can think, feel and act for you, hmm?
Now. Say, “Thank you”.”
The auction house on Thursday afternoon. Some time after school.
Filing through a narrow passageway between piles of jumbled furniture, our family crocodile must have seemed to go on forever.
Son after son after son squeezed through.
Smiling benignly, a silver-haired lady, rather well-to-do in appearance, was moved to ask as I wheeled the pushchair by:
“Did you want boys?”
I walk up to the door, repeating my lines internally, rehearsing.
I know my part now. Backwards and inside out.
Once over that threshold there can be no veering, no ad-libbing, no improvisation.
Should I swerve from my allotted casting, there will be bedlam. All other cast members will be thrown.
No-one will know who they are supposed to be.
I give up. Not defeated, you understand, just out of avenues.
I have approached from every perspective I can muster, contorted inwards, outwards, twisted upon myself, to try to see me from your angle.
But it escapes me, eludes, evades, flees.
I do not recognise the person you see in my mirror.
My reflection gazes back, baffled.
Who is she?