Flesh-eating fears (2012)

I stop rolling paint on the door and turn to DC, my index finger raised like I’m pointing to something significant in the heavens. But the significance is the finger itself and the little white pocket it has developed at the corner of the nail. I believe its origin is dark and sinister and I’m afraid if I say it out loud, it will make it a reality, so instead I say, “Babe, it’s pulsing.”

DC squints, “Yeah, I’ve had those before. Usually from a piece of skin getting inflamed. It sucks but it’ll pass.”

He goes back to painting. I remain with finger raised to the heavens.

“This no piece-0f-skin-thingy. This is a different thingy altogether!”

DC keeps eyes on the wall, refusing to confirm or deny with response.

My finger feels pregnant with a small galaxy. Stars and black holes and planets ready to explode. I wrap my arms around myself for emotional support. DC doesn’t seem to understand the situation, so I speak the dark and sinister thing.

“What if it’s a flesh-eating bacteria?”

DC pauses, slides his eyes to my face, to my finger. He thinks I’m hyperbole stuffed into a cute skinsuit.

I know it’s from cleaning the pond, from killing the fish with my good intentions.  

“This is fish revenge,” I say, still hugging myself for emotional support.

Dan, “Well, you did murder them.”

“It’s not funny.”

“Nope, it isn’t.”

He continues to paint. An edge of a smile at the corner of his mouth. He is using a new parenting technique on me from a book he didn’t read. He is using my summary of strategies against me.

“You’re Happy Toddlering me!”

I give up swaddling myself to point my definitely-near-necrotic finger. He smiles. Shrugs. Keeps painting.

“You’ll miss me when I’m a pile of bones. You’ll think, wow, I should have listened to her.”

“Probably so.”

“This is serious! The tip of my finger is developing a brain and it’s not a good brain.”

“I know, ZC. It’s terrrrrrrrrible.” He singsongs it. My hands to hips now, my chin lifted. He is right, I am my daughter’s mother.

The infamous ‘they’ talk a lot about how being a parent is the most difficult and rewarding job on the planet. Some of the ‘they’ roll their eyes and speak ominously about the times to come.  But no authoritative ‘they’ explained that DC and I would be parenting our children AND each other.

As DC and I learn from our children, we learn about ourselves.

The painting continues, the throbbing finger throbs, the conversation turns to subjects far away from flesh eating bacteria. I serenade DC with off-tune improv. The windows darken. The children become restless with a need for sleep.

The walls drying, my hair and skin flecked in paint, JC nuzzles up to me and demands that the day be done. I put down the industry of removing tape from windowsills, along skirting. The index finger and its pulsing, straining galaxy goes quiet.

JC climbs up me like a tree, wrapping his legs around my waist, his arms tight around my neck. We collapse on the bed, a tangle of weariness, warmth, and wild limbs. I feel JC lighten, his breathing sinks deeper, his small fingers tangled in my hair. I feel the moment when he slips into that otherworld of dreams, a lightness in his body, a shifting of presence.

A moment of overlap between all that is human into something else – in that space where DC and I intersect and our children emerge, there is a tear in the veil and I glimpse the divine.

My children are the antidote to peace-eating thoughts. They are the dose of medicine with their fingers tangled in my hair. They are a moment of immunity from self-concern. They are proof of God’s creative love.

I follow JC’s breathing. My lungs are raw from fumes. My arms ache from hours of making a home our own. Now that I have spoken the dark and sinister into the light, I am given new understanding as DC comes into the bedroom carrying ZC.

I whisper, “I’m sorry you had to be SO dramatic about my finger, its going to be fine. Poor guy, such a wild imagination.”

DC nods, “Thanks.”

“You are very welcome.”

He turns off the lights on my Cheshire cat grin, sinks into the bed. ZC rolls instinctively toward me, her breath soft and sweet.

Dead fish smile in their graves. The clean waters of the pond reflect the stars. The flesh-eating bacteria search for a new host. Paint dries on the walls. All is as it should be.

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