The sun is shining but we are inside. My stomach is empty, but I know my arm can’t handle the bowl to mouth, bowl to mouth movement, so I curl my knees tighter into my chest.
One load of clothes enters the washing machine, my expensive yoga leggings which I normally wash by themselves mixed in with every colour, every material type. There, I will have done something today. This day will not have been an absolute waste. There.
I sit on the edge of the couch, the remote heavy in my hands. I prop one hand up with the other, almost unable to press the necessary buttons with my weighted fingers.
I want Batman! yells one.
I want Paw Patrol! yells the other.
I look at the running times of each, and decide on Batman, the longer one.
NOOOO! I WANTED PAW PATROL! he persists, each word piercing my ears and making my brain physically hurt, my insides retreating farther in, leaving just my outer skin intact, the last semblance of me that can pretend to be a normal, functioning person.
We’ll watch Paw Patrol after, I whisper. They don’t hear me, so I whisper again, unable to speak any louder, even though the anger is starting to brew. We’ll watch it after, sweetie. The screams still pierce, push, and pry. I cower, I hover in that space between retreat and attack, then find the one bit of energy I can rely on: rage. My voice builds, gathering fury and hatred and exhaustion in its wake, finding its crescendo as it descends upon my 4-year-old. WE WILL WATCH IT AFTER, I snarl. They, silent. Me, ugly.
I pull myself up and start to walk to the stairs. I sit on the bottom one, unable to find enough energy to hoist my body up. I must feed them something. It’s 1pm and they haven’t eaten since 8am. I cut them each an apple, the last two. A sandwich will push me over the edge, I know. They will live with one apple, I tell myself. I look in the fridge. Half a packet of ham, butter, a cup’s worth of milk, 2 green peppers, and a dozen small jars of things that never get touched, that never seem to expire. I need to go to the grocery store, but I know I can’t. It would involve washing my face, driving my car safely, shouting and chasing and threatening and apologizing and comforting, and I can’t. It would involve smiling politely, maybe even talking to someone I recognize. I can’t. I know I can’t. Tomorrow. There is always pasta for tonight. Tomorrow I will go grocery shopping and cook them fresh and healthy food, I promise. Tomorrow.
I drag my body up the stairs, stopping to double-bolt the front door so at least they won’t get kidnapped. I climb into bed, pulling one heavy leg, then the other under the covers, hating myself for having them watch so much TV, for shouting, for not having enough energy to sit outside and watch them swing on the one sunny day in months, for letting the emptiness, the emptiness that I thought was long gone, return. Just one more show. Then I’ll have more energy. Then I’ll take them to the park and we’ll go grocery shopping. But right now, my eyelids are too heavy, the fuzzy blanket in my head is shriveling my brain, a dumbbell is on my heart, pushing it down and away from my surface. And I can’t get up. I feel myself falling, somewhere, but I don’t know where. The room is escaping and a darkness is starting to smother, but I welcome it, I open my arms and dive in.
My boy bursts in, smiling, his blonde air starting to curl in at the ends because of the heat, his cheeks red, the sun’s sprinkling of freckles atop his nose, happy to see me, happy to climb in next to me, begging to watch another show. Sure, my sweetie. My head is still foggy, my limbs still so heavy I know I can’t walk downstairs and manoeuvre the remote. So I hand him the iPad. He grabs it happily, skipping out of the room. Mommy is letting us play on the iPad! he squeals.
Tomorrow I will ask for help. Tomorrow maybe the fog will go away. Tomorrow I will call the doctor. But, today, it is too much.