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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

only time

E's hand went to her throat and her face turned in on itself. I ferried bowls of soup to her bedroom, kept her at one end of the apartment, a kleenex in her hand when she needed to touch a doorknob to go to the bathroom. She rested. She chattered with her friends from school over the phone, getting each day's homework assignment and working away at her desk. No fever, no throwing up, just bouts of sneezing and a little mountain of used tissues from blowing her nose. 

A few days later she was rested, a little bored. 

Then, my throat grew tight. A headache seized me in the middle of the night. I took to walking around with a surgical mask on, keeping away from N and the baby. I made a new pot of soup thick with garlic and ginger and chili, with the last of the fresh spinach but soon I was sneezing wildly, wrapped in blankets on the sofa. E rested her head on my shoulder and told me to sleep. I worked when I could to distract myself, already feeling so far away from N and V, peeking at them through a crack in the door, wondering if V had gotten a tiny bit bigger, if her face does new things when she is sleeping. I missed the sight of her carrot-orange poops, the changing of diapers and that trip to the bathroom with her in my arms to wash her tiny red bottom, to make jokes at her face in the mirror oggling up at me.




The chicken soup is bright yellow, with tiny puddles of fat on the surface. I boil fresh noodles, wander around the apartment seeing my face in that mask when I pass a mirror while everyone sleeps. I bought these masks as props for the film I shot last summer, as a metaphor for futility  - that they would protect no one during a bombing attack, but people put them on to make themselves feel better, an adult pacifier, a golden ticket for a show that would never play. Of course I imagine they do something to keep my germs from flying around, but cannot help but think they are just as useless. Only time will correct this. 







Comments

liv said…
A beautiful blend of N and you. But more so you. Incredible how parents can be spotted in such a new and tiny face.

I could spend hours, months, years staring at that face and watching it grow, change, reveal.

Oh ... I get to, I will ! So far away, yet a part, albeit a tiny part, of this incredible thing.

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