Jake shrieked with abandonment when I left him at nursery today. Asking repeatedly for one more cuddle, one more kiss and then clutching my neck, “I want to go with you Mummy!” As I walk away to catch my bus to the hospital, I see myself throwing his shoes across the room, the ones he decided he didn’t want to wear as soon as I’d fastened them on. I see myself shouting at him, telling him I’m going to be late for my appointment and that the Doctor will shout at me. I hear myself asking him, “Is that what you want?”
I see myself walk away in impatience as he wails, on the pavement now, for me to fix the wheels of his bus or he won’t go to nursery. I see myself thinking I should stop, that it’s mean to let him run after me, crying like that. And yet, I don’t stop, my head mired in fury about how sick I am of having to go through this every week. Then I see him fall, flat on his front, palms slapping the concrete, screams up a decibel or three. I’m a cow, a cow, a total fucking cow. No wonder he cried the way he did, when I said goodbye. And there goes my bus.
I get the next one and it is only on the bus that I realise I cannot just nip to the Museum of Childhood on the way home to pick up a present for Jake. And I marvel at how my brain had been holding onto this twisted logic for days, absolutely disregarding the fact that Whipps Cross hospital is nowhere near Bethnal Green and that the only reason I believed it so easily was because my last dental appointment was at the Royal London. I ponder whether this is due to age or stress. And yet, even knowing, there is still a part of my brain that traces a route from the Royal London to the Museum of Childhood, following it as if I was reading a map of my day, as if my mind had the ability to tear up roads, uproot hospitals, relocate inconveniences.
At Whipps, I just make it for my appointment, only to be told they are running 45 minutes late. So I settle into Michael Cunningham’s A Home at The End of The World. The first few chapters are set in childhood. Unhappy parents unable to overcome their humanity, seen through the eyes of 5 year olds. My old friend guilt rises to the surface and I pick at it like a scab. As I read I decide Michael Cunningham is my new favourite writer, resolve to read everything he’s ever written.
His writing has me in goose bumps, inspiring me as I read, releasing images for stories I want to write, like ghosts that want to be seen. I scour the depths of my bag for a pen. There isn’t one. I close my eyes instead, choose to memorise the contours of one ghost, imprint it onto a flickering screen to look at later.
An hour and 20 minutes later, my name is called. A nurse asks me if I’ve had the scan they sent me for, at the Royal London. I say yes. They ask me when. I can’t remember. I am told to sit down again. Another 10 minutes and I am finally seen by the oral surgery consultant. The impacted wisdom tooth they want to take out is not only awkward in that it has three roots instead of two, but it is also sitting very close to a nerve. Although they will try their best not to nick it, there is a risk that I may lose some sensation to my bottom lip. It’s so complicated the consultant says he wants to do the surgery himself. I take it as a good sign. I’ve heard wisdom teeth extractions can be brutal. Maybe they’ll be more careful this way, more gentle. I’m told that I will need someone to look after me for 24 hours after the procedure and I wonder what would happen if I didn’t have Paul. I’d have no one, I keep saying to myself. I’d have no one. I want to feel angry about this, or at the very least, a little bit sad, but the thought of it suddenly bores me and I don’t have the time.
They tell me I need to have an x-ray done but I have to leave to pick up Jake. The bus I need doesn’t arrive. It’s threatening to rain and of course I’d decided not to bring a coat. I take the next bus that comes which gets me halfway. The rest of the way I walk, stopping at Greggs to buy some food. Just as I’m debating the pro’s and con’s of eating while walking, it rains. I stuff the food in my bag and start London-walking. It’s nearly one o’clock and I’ve had nothing to eat since breakfast. All of this makes me angry but all I can do is swear at weather.
Jake runs to me when I arrive, stumbling onto a sleeping child in his eagerness. Zanab tells me that it took him 15 minutes of crying that he wanted his mummy before calming down and then helping her set up the garden and the room upstairs. She tells me how he polished off his lunch, forking each bean on his plate and eating them one by one. Before she finishes talking, Jake starts waving at her and saying goodbye. She quickly tells me Jake told her he likes her and it makes her face light up. After we leave the nursery Jake asks if the Doctor shouted at me. “No darling, I made it on time,” I say, wondering if he’ll remember this, brood on it, write about it someday.
On the walk home, Jake sees a morning glory bloom that’s wound its way through someone’s hedge. He asks me to pick it. “I want it,” he says “it’s beautiful!” Then he sees his shadow holding the flower and he stops. “Oh, look it’s my shadow and the flower shadow!” It’s a photo moment. Just as I press the button, a butterfly lands on the flower. “Ohhhhhh, a butterfly!” Jake says, still smiling as he watches it flutter away.
Jake says, “I can plant this can’t I? I can grow it Mummy.” And I hate having to tell him that he can’t, hate realising that all I’ve done today is disappoint him. I think how wrong it is, having to tell a child he can’t plant a flower he’s just plucked, that it’s a Universal flaw, along with cancer and homelessness.
At home, I devour my egg sandwich while cbeebies entertains him. Then he wants to read. He picks “Uh Oh, Gotta Go ~ Potty Tales from Toddlers” and after I read to him, my potty resistant toddler wants to put on pants and sit on the potty. Later, as we’re tidying, I pick up the bag from Greggs which I thought was empty but contains a lemon cupcake. I show Jake and his grin is as big as mine. I slice the cupcake in half, revealing a gooey yellow centre.
I don't like morality tales that try to teach people a lesson and this isn't a tale or a lesson but sometimes in the midst of a crappy day, something simple and beautiful and perfect happens and everything shifts and for a moment, you forget the past and all you can't undo and the future and all you can't make certain and you see life, just as it is, new and unfolding.