Saturday, May 01, 2010

1. Hiding in Chocolate Milk

‘Which ear is it?’
It’s this one, I say, and Charlie shakes his head, points to the other.
‘Shall I look?’ says the doctor, with her tiny light, and, ‘You’re both right,’ she says. ‘It’s in both.’

The crying tumbled through the night. I brought him into my bed and the night tumbled on, picture books by night light, Panadol in a little plastic cup. In this story the bears are making mud pies. Quiet crying, crying then quiet, under the blankets, blaming the blankets, pushing them all to the floor. I’m making up the words to lullabies. Hush little baby, please don’t cry, Mummy’s gonna bake you an apple pie. In this story a rabbit gets new ice skates for her birthday. And if that apple pie’s too hot, Mummy’s gonna smoke a whole bunch of pot. The crying’s growing stronger. He is taking the pillow from under my head, he is climbing all over the bed, looking for the place it doesn’t hurt.

Once I fell asleep and woke to find him curled on top of my head, elbow on my eye, pressing his ear into my hair.

‘Do you like lolly snakes?’ says the doctor. She puts the jar of snakes onto her desk. ‘These are such big snakes’ she says. ‘I'll have to see if one will fit into your mouth,’ wooden stick on his tongue, light down his throat, ‘it will!’
‘I will eat the snake when we get out of here,’ he whispers to me. ‘Okay,’ I whisper back.

Carry him out to pay the bill, he takes a bite of the lolly snake, and throws up onto the carpet. A pregnant woman waiting is quiet.

At home, I pile them all into the machine, his clothes and my clothes, then remember that the washing machine’s still broken.

First we have to get you better, I say. Give him the medicine and he spits it back out, white splatters on his clean t-shirt and the floor.

I call the washing machine repairman and he still doesn’t answer, so I leave a message saying there’s vomit all over our clothes.
I call the other repairman. The other repairman is the father of the first one. He tells me his son was in an accident. That’s why he didn’t show up the other day.
That’s why he’s not answering my calls.
Is he all right? I try to say.
He was following his friend, says the father. He had his mobile phone, see, he was looking at his mobile phone, and he crashed into the back of his friend’s car. His car was written off.
Was he all right? I say again.
He was all right. He was fine. He will get a new car this weekend. Then he will come to you. Maybe next Wednesday or Thursday.

I try being firm. You have to take your medicine. I sit him on my lap, show him the dropper. Your ears are both sick and the doctor says that this will make them better, open your mouth for me. He gags, spits it out, writhes out of my arms. A small pot of fingerpaint hits the side of my head. ‘I have to throw things at you,’ he explains, ‘because you are trying to make me have that medicine.’

What’s the guy been doing? Sitting looking at his broken car?
He should have called me back, I tell his father.

I sit on the steps beside Charlie and tell him a story. There’s little monsters in your ears, and that medicine, you know your medicine, it’s full of tiny little police and when you swallow the medicine the police go racing straight up to your ears and attack the monsters! Charlie’s face lights up.
We go to get the medicine. He sees the spots of white on the outside of the dropper and backs away. He’s hiding behind the couch and sobbing. ‘I want the monsters to stay in my ears, leave them alone.’

My sister drops by. She runs to the store and brings back chocolate milk. You hide the medicine in the chocolate milk, she says.
See? she says to Charlie. Here’s a special treat for you.
Charlie tells my sister that he loves her. He takes a mouthful of the chocolate milk. Everything is beautiful, like sleep.

The repairman’s father knocks on the door. He says he’ll fix the machine. He heads into the laundry. A few minutes later he comes back out and shows me a magazine. ‘It was jammed underneath,’ he says, ‘caught in the motor.’
He charges me $65.
‘I don’t like this chocolate milk,’ says Charlie.

First day of May today. I’m going to blog every day in May. The other ones are going to be shorter than this.

It’s a day of festivals, flowers, anarchy, bonfires, and young people jumping from bridges into 2 feet of water. May Day. I just looked it up. That’s how I know the details. The eight hour day. Here, it's the start of winter - I just turned on the fire, there’s a new chill in the air - but on May Day, everybody parties, the end of winter, releasing the balloons.

A few weeks back, I drove home from a party through the rain with a blue balloon.
The balloon pressed its head against the ceiling. Then it leaned sideways so all I could see in the rear view mirror was blue.
Outside the car at home, Charlie reached for the balloon.
‘I’ll bring it inside,’ I said.
‘Give me the balloon,’ he said.
‘No, no.’ I was holding it tight, ‘I’ll carry it inside for you - or tie it to your wrist’, and he breathed in, calmly, ‘Just give it to me.’
We were standing on the footpath in the rain beside the open car door. I started talking. I said, ‘If you let go of the ribbon, this balloon will fly away,’ and he said, ‘Give it to me.’
I said: ‘Do you want—are you sure— Because you know that this will fly away? If it slips out of your fingers, even for a second, it will go up into the sky. And it will keep on going up, and you will never get it back. Do you understand?’
He reached out his hand for the balloon.

That’s where I’ll leave it for now.
Charlie sitting on the couch, medicine hidden in a mug of chocolate milk. The mug is blue. It stands on the coffee table. ‘I don’t like this chocolate milk,’ he says again. Charlie and I on the footpath in the rain outside our house. Bright blue balloon between us like a maypole, waiting to see what we will do.