Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2009
The death of a small kid carries a velocity that doesn’t slow with distance travelled or time passed. It crashes through families and friends within its radius and leaves them lost and confused, and utterly out of their depth.
It happened a year ago and ever since then I’ve been afraid. What once was two families linked through coincidence with so much in common, suddenly shattered into a thousand pieces and no amount of King’s men could put it all together again. We met briefly a few times and gave each other tight hugs and meaningful gazes and exchanged dirty jokes, but it it’ll never be the same… an elephant sits on the situation that nobody can ignore. She wears a dog-tag around her neck with Superman’s classic ‘S’ symbol, her kid’s name is written just below. It nestles in her cleavage which got pounced on by her four-year old and the chain broke today when we met for coffee… her eyes welled up and she felt sick all of a sudden. She fumbled with the links and I fumbled for something to put into the vaccuum… the room fell silent and the rest of the shopping mall ceased to exist, everything got sucked into her grief and I sat there like an Easter Island head and muttered stupid and irrelevant things. Then the moment passed and life went on as usual and we ordered more coffee.
She asked after Laughingboy, her passed son’s best mate at school. Thick as thieves in their own trapped worlds, Laughingboy got pretty upset at his funeral even though most thought he didn’t have the capacity for it, myself included oddly enough. Their classroom is totally different now.
I began to vent about Laughingboy’s latest habit of grinding his teeth, about how he grinds solidly for every hour of his wakefulness and about how it’s getting louder and louder as the enamel is being worn away and the surface area widens and sounds a bit like chaffinches, if you’re lucky enough to find your happy place. I was half-way through my rant and suddenly I realised what I was doing. Children’s idiosyncracies are so much better above ground than below, no matter how annoying they are. I’d forgotten that and was smearing it all over the elephant and now it was all pissed off. Except it wasn’t. She laughed and I wrapped things up with ‘apart from that, he’s fine!’ and that was that. I felt like such a shit. A really confused shit.
Some people have a gift for listening and other people don’t. I’m one of those clumsy absurd kind of people, and I’d love to get my hands on a copy of ‘Tact for Dummies’ if there is such a thing… something with key tips about knowing exactly what to say to pull people out of their deep stinky dark well instead of hovering around the issue and grunting nonsensically… that would be great.
Life is so perverse. All the woman needs is a hug and a wee distraction now and then, but all I worry about is feeling guilty because my son is still alive. You just can’t laugh that sort of thing off, can you?