Back and forth. Back and forth. Monkey went home six times before we could finally stop the back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Cracks showed and broke open in his shell as the pressure and fear sent him to anxieties’s doorstep. I needed to help him. Somehow under the guise of promising his mother that she would be getting weekly playdates with him and how I needed help from a therapist; not her, never her I signed him up for therapy. Monkey’s mother was mom of the year after-all and I was the fumbling caretaker who did not have the magical mom bond only given to those who had given birth. I laced the promise with ego stroking massages and miraculously she agreed to get monkey in child play therapy. That way we all can help him. He needed so much help as he was cracking and breaking with each back and forth.
‘It’s all for monkey.’ I told her.
‘All for my son’ she replied.
I showed up with monkey in tow. He was excitable and hyper as he recognized the glass windows of the therapists office.
‘My mommy in there’
I smiled and ruffled his mop of curls. I looked to he’s bare toes wiggling up at me. He was dancing and twirling in hand me down and well used flip flops. Monkey’s attachment to shoes was the focus of hours of therapy. For weeks straight he refused to take off the mint condition Jordans his mother had deposited him into our laps wearing. He would scream and hit in frantic desperation to keep the shoes securely on his feet when I threatened his security blanket to remove them. The screams chilled my blood and I resigned to battling only over bath time when it was impossible to clean him with his footwear. The bath routine was a rush of hysterical screaming as I splashed and rushed to clean him as fast as I could in order to put his beloved shoes right back on. And just like that, with the same magic of Cinderella slipping on her glass slipper, he would instantly return to his quiet, content self. I on the other hand would hide in the closet trying to breath as my heart raced from the entire encounter.
The therapy was slowly reaping good fruit as this morning he surprised me when he came out with flip flops on his small feet.
‘Are you sure monkey?’
‘Yup mommy I love my flip flops’
And I tackled him in laughter and giggles and kisses and hugs as we celebrated this milestone of recovery. All of that was about to hit the fan and I knew it as he proudly marched in his flip flops to the glass office building where the intensity of his mother waited inside.
It is the moments between moments they say. It is that pause between breaths. It is the space between when life drudges on from one event to anther. That is it. That is when magic happens. I stood frozen. I had wrestled open the too heavy doors of the children’s behavior specialists office in order to make an eloquent entrance but performing anything but elegant performance. Our new normal. Our routine as of a month ago was a weekly pilgrimage to what monkey now called ‘belly mommy’s house’. And there we stood. My backpack slipping off my shoulder as the door shut abruptly behind me; the impact pushing me forward to trip over monkey as he stood always interwoven between my legs. His head barely reaching the top of my stretched long from years of ballets limbs. My tree hugger; clinging to my trunk ever swaying in the wind. The door clamored. All eyes in the waiting room lifted from whatever brand of handheld electronics they were glued too. I sigh; backpack slipping, slipping. My stance faltering. Tripping awkwardly showing I was incapable of achieving much. I sigh, they are watching my every sound. I look down trying to figure out why monkey has stopped his forward progression. Slowly my eyes drift up to match his line of vision to the pin point of his focus. The red dot of a laser focused right on his belly mother sitting in the uncomfortable metal chairs opposing us.
And the space between then and now; the second between the second, monkey stands in his miracle. This suspension bridge spanning how he would like to live his entire entity of living. Firmly connected to my leg, nestled under the umbrella of my presence and yet there she is. His belly mother. His loyalty wavering. Safely in her presence yet not having to give up the stability of the only family unit he has ever known. He can gaze upon her as his love for her is powerful. Yes even on my worst days I will not deny the bond forever tethering them to each other. But in this moment he does not have to give up the life he has created with legos and race cars within the world that is our own little world miles from this sterile office with the obnoxiously heavy entrance doors. In this mythical silence lays his miracle.
The snap is so loud inside my mind that I am convinced it is a audible sound for the room to hear. It is the collapse of suspension as her head raises from checking her phone to matching my stare. I am hoping for the warmth of a smile; or that familiar recognition of one that you adore. Or a look that you give to someone you even somewhat like as a acquaintance is the very least the meeting gaze I am praying for. After all it has been almost four years I have been the second mother to her son. But no. That pleasant smile would be my miracle and in its place instead is a look of distrustful accusations of why her son is still wrapped around my legs and not making his way to her own embrace. The snap adds to my complication of being and the backpack forever slipping finally frees itself from my hunched over shoulder to clatter to the tile floor.
Please go. My body pleads as I hesitate to simply push him away in order to protect myself from her stare. Instead I gently nudge him from my protective bubble. Whispering some encouraging love notions of how wonderful it is that his mother is here. All the while my insides churning in desperation for him to just go. Please go. His pause is agonizing as he reluctantly relinquishes his space between miracle to the harsh reality of what is. Go sit in the chair and be good now; become all that she tells you. She had raised her all knowing eyes to met mine. One check mate to my fallen king until they softened to met her son’s face. The only sign that her confidence is a pseudo temperament is the endless tapping of her foot on the plastic chair. Tapping, tapping, tapping. Anxiety swelling up inside her with her tapping, tapping, tapping. Her face softens to a smile as monkey nestles into her lap. She coos sweet nothings into his ear as one of her luscious curls hide her bright eyes. I make note of the widened pupils and glossed over shine. Anther sign she is as uncomfortable as I am with this weekly encounter. So unsure of herself she must detach herself of fully being present of the events unfolding. As she places her phone on the chair beside her the bright emblem of a pot leaf further solidifies that although physically she sits in this office; mentally she is among the smoke.
Monkey has begun his racing. Chair to chair. Up to down. Here to there. Endless racing of energy that was paralyzed just moments before. His anxiety of excitement a whirling dervish into, onto, within everything around him. He looks like her. He really does look like her son. Her caramel skin the same hue of his. Her full pouty lips just as lush as his. I tug uncomfortable on my dress as it clings to my belly in a way I find intolerable. She glances to once me over; taking in my drug store generic shoes, my mismatched patterns, my messy hair that just seems to split in this dry climate. And the worst offense my clean face free of any makeup to decorate it’s grotesque plainness. She stretches to reveal her flat stomach proudly on display between her skin tight acid wash jeans and her crop top. A outfit I have not the confidence to wear even parading around the rooms of my home all alone, at night, with the lights off.
Monkey grabs at her skin with a look of confusion of the white marks that cut up the landscape. Tapping, tapping, tapping, she grabs his hand so quickly both monkey and I jump startled at the swift movement. A deep chuckle escapes her throat as she proudly explains how monkey did that to her. His face furrows on worry. He is confused and unsure of why she is accusing him of marking her stomach in such a way. He is spiraling to being terrified that those lines are evidence of wrongdoing he has done. I bite my lip. Tasting blood I am pushing this moment in time in exasperation to move quicker and not leave him dangling dangerously between confusion and understanding. She remains secretive in her meaning. Only that chuckle rolling down the back of my spine awaking the fine blond hairs. Monkey’s eyes find mine. I see the terror. He is asking me to step in. He is asking me to help him understand this woman holding him. She is giving him nothing. Please he pleads. Please. I force a cough as anther moment between moment passes. The silence engulfing us in such a fog I begin to lose my place in this act played out.
The stage is the waiting room. The players the three of us sitting together yet separate on the cold plastic chairs. My role the quiet woman. I am not to intervene as the two main characters of mother and son shower each other parading this biological bond. Quiet woman say nothing. Quiet woman withhold any embrace of affection. Quiet woman simply wait to be called upon for a bathroom run or a snack or answer some needed medical information. I am the quiet woman. In this scene of act played out; I am the quiet woman.
The voice releases itself the second before I realize it is my own voice explaining what stretch marks are; and how monkey at one time had been living in her belly. How no he did not mean to hurt her. And no he did nothing wrong. And yes he is loved. And yes he is so loved. The pressure breaks as her heavily accented song of a voice brokenly connects her stretch marks to ownership and pointedly zeros her eyes in on my own midsection. I tug at my dress. Her foot forever tapping. The deeper meaning of this exchange blown blissfully over monkeys head as begins his racing once more. My body has no stretch marks. My body has not held a child to birth. My body is not as lovely as her body. My body is a failure. And as monkey jumps from plastic chair to plastic chair. My inner mother cringing wishing I could step in to correct the wayward child understanding as the quiet woman in this scene I can not.
He is the evidence of her accomplishments. He is her son. Stretch marks, curls, hazel brown eyes. He is her son.
Her eyes widen and focus on monkeys feet. The air shifts as all of the warm embraces and hugs are shoved off her lap as she pushed him to stand in front of her for examination.
‘What are those?’
It took me a second to absorb what she was saying to me. I could tell this annoyed her. Her accent was thick with English as her second language. Her insecurity at not being understand was one she could not hide very well as the level of reds became more intense as I studied monkey trying to figure out what the those items were she was referring to. Then the light bulb flicked on. Pop went the bell. Monkey stood in front of his two mothers no longer smiling. He was retracting into his shell under the scrutiny. She was referring to his footwear. Monkey was wearing handme down and obnoxious spongebob square pants flip flops.
And his mother was not amused.