The police told me there was nothing down there. I know they’re lying.
(This story is very very long, be warned.)
I never wanted to be a mother. A child happened to me, I didn’t ask for it.
After you’ve had a child, you never get peace and quiet. I don’t mean that in a resentful way, just a fact. There’s the crying phase, the screaming phase, the yelling phase, the “NO!” phase, et cetera. And you never get time. You don’t have time for hobbies and distractions. Raising a child is two full-time jobs.
It’s not that I didn’t try to do everything I could for him. It’s not that I didn’t try and be a good parent. I did, I gave it everything I had. But deep down, I think he could tell that I didn’t want him. Kids know.
I had a part time job. I didn’t get paid very well, but it was enough. It was just office work, nothing exciting. My sister would look after him when I wasn’t around. I didn’t really have the money for daycare.
I knew that things weren’t working out like they should have. And I did what any self-respecting human being would do - I bought a book. I’d always heard that you should read to your child every night, and that doing so would make them smart and well-adjusted. Well, I had nothing to lose.
I’m not really an Amazon person, so I paid a visit to my local bookstore - a dark, slightly grubby independent place that shuns all but the most obsessive of bookworms. Standing in the narrow, dimly-lit aisles, surrounded by towering bookshelves jammed with volumes at every angle, I wondered, briefly - what do people normally buy for their kids?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
He was a bit old for that. Besides, I think that’s one of those books that parents buy because they think it’s kitschy, not because their kids will actually enjoy it.
Amongst the slightly destroyed second-hand Roald Dahl books and Dr. Seuss anthologies, I found a book that stuck out. It was old, and bound in what looked like real leather, but it was in surprisingly good shape. It wasn’t too long, but it proclaimed its suitability for for children aged 4-6 (he was five). It was called ‘The Trap Door’. No author, no other details. I picked it up and skimmed through the first few pages, and it seemed an ideal fit. It was written in an irregular rhyming meter, and it was festooned with colourful, scratchy illustrations that depicted a boy strikingly similar to my son. The picture was already forming in my head - we’d read it, we’d bond, and we’d smooth over the cracks.
I know it was just a book, but for the first time in my life, I realized I was excited to spend time with my son.
That night, after I’d tucked him into bed, I sat down on his shark duvet (he liked sharks), and I sprang the book upon him.
Once, long ago and far away
There lived a boy of five or so
With a rounded face and hair like hay
And a mind that yearned to learn and grow
The boy lived in a mud-flecked land
Of rolling hills and sheep and styles,
And brooks and trees and miles and miles
Of hinterlands and ranch hands
Long ago there was a war,
Of petty kings and border-lords
The earth did drink the blood of those
Who died for honor or a rose
The boy was happy as could be,
In the cottage on the hill
His mother his only company,
Who loved that boy with all her will
It’s challenging material for a five-year old. But it was educational, it was stimulating. I had only a faint idea of what the war of the roses was actually about, but I did a good job of pretending that I did.
We said our i-love-yous and I closed the door. Things were going to be okay.