“I Can’t Find You.”
I look down into two big blue eyes that are already brimming with tears. I blink. I am confused.
“What did you say?”
He looks down at his shoes, not wanting to repeat himself. He hasn’t meant to say it. His heart has taken hold for a moment and his brain hasn’t been able to stop him blurting it out. Of course I’ve heard him. But my racing mind is hoping that I am mistaken.
“Whaddya mean, buddy?”
He peeks up at me. His dark lashes are so long that I can barely see the blue of his eyes. I’ve always wondered how such a fair child could have such black lashes. Now, with the salty tears clinging, they are even blacker.
“I can’t find you. I look for you, but you’re not there. You’re like a dolly. You’re not real.”
He stops speaking and wipes his nose on the sleeve of his shirt. The tears finally spill over, down his cheeks and over his jawline. I watch as one makes a trail down his neck, leaving a clean streak in the little boy dirt on his skin. My silence prompts his next question:
“Why do you want to leave me?”
I am detached. Emotionless. I see his tears from some other place, and I am more curious than concerned. I can’t attach any feeling to it. I can’t make myself feel.
I stare at him, detached and confused. But some part of me, that primal – almost animal – part that was awakened five years ago when I gave birth to this miracle – is stirring.
This is my child. He is hurting. He needs comfort.
But I continue to stare blankly. His sobs grow more intense. He can’t look at me. He shakes and shivers as if naked in the winter woods, and I observe it with cool detachment, as though noting a particularly interesting fly.
“Why are you crying?”
He takes a breath and holds himself tightly. He sniffs and again wipes his nose on his sleeve. He looks full into my face, and I see it. Finally I see it. The absolute heartbreak within. That tiny fracture that started when he woke me up this morning, and I told him to leave me alone until I’d had coffee. That fissure that formed when he asked me to play with him after lunch, and I told him I was going to do some work instead. That chasm that opened when he tried to climb into my lap, and I pushed him away because I was too hot and didn’t want to have his body too close to mine.
I see it all. And I feel my failure.
I drop to my knees and pull him into a hug. His sobs are nearly as big as my own, and his tiny hands grasp my neck so tightly – as if he is hanging from a precipice and I am the life-saving root he has latched onto.
Our words stumble over each other:
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t leave me, mommy. Please don’t leave me.”
After a while we both calm down, and I kiss the tip of his nose, still wet with his tears. I hold his small fingers intertwined with mine, and I smile for the first time today. He lifts the corner of his mouth, and I reach around to gently tickle his belly.
He giggles for a moment and then goes quiet again. I lift my eyebrow, waiting to see if he will speak what is on his mind.
His two little hands raise up to my face, and he pulls me close.
“I found you, mommy. I found you.”