A car almost hit Max yesterday. The kids were riding bikes on our road, a flat, mostly quiet stretch with the occasional vehicle zipping by. I sat in a camping chair, reading a magazine, one eye on what Max, Claire, and their neighbor friends were doing, feeling a little smug that I was in the cold supervising at all.
Max flew by me and up a sloped driveway.
Seconds later, I spotted, in the distance, a mini-van coming toward us. "Car!" I called.
It was then that J. emerged from the house, asking if I wanted to go work out. I'd mentioned earlier in the day that exercising was a goal for the weekend.
Max raced down the driveway. The mini-van cruised toward us.
From where I sat on my lazy ass, I couldn't see Max. J., standing, had a good view. "Stop!" he shouted to Max. He yelled it twice more before Max, visibly shaken, could pull over.
"I didn't see it!" Max cried.
"I forgot he was up there," I gasped.
I came inside and changed into my t-shirt and yoga pants, feeling stunned and worthless and lucky. I got on the elliptical in our basement. I flipped on the TV. Grey's Anatomy, a show I've ever only watched a few snippets of, was on. Oh, I thought, I'll see what this is all about (only about 6 years late, I know).
The very first scene was of a mother holding her eight- or nine-year-old boy as he lay dying in a hospital bed. Boys that age, they slay me. The freckles, the still delicate noses and jaws, the way they love their moms (but not in public).
I lost it. I started sobbing and had to get off the elliptical. For a long time, I sat on the stairs weeping. I don't know real pain, I thought. I don't know what real devastation is even like. I only know what it feels to love another being so much that his (or her) demise would kill you. Fuck you over completely.
At dinner, J. said, "It wasn't that close."
"I thought it was. You saved him."
"That's how I see it."
Last night I had horrendous nightmares, the most dark and notable of which was me giving Max and Claire to a friend. Delivering them like second hand books. In the way of dreams, a lot of time passed during which I did nothing but drive. Finally, after a week, I realized I'd made an awful mistake, that I wanted my children back, that I had no idea what they'd been exposed to over the past seven days. It was pure, subconscious terror.
I met up with my friend and she relinquished my kids. They were happy to see me, but quivery and confused about why I'd left them. My disgruntled friend confessed she'd had to leave Max and Claire with people she didn't know very well so she could go to work.
All I could think was: had they been sexually assaulted? And if so, would they tell me?
I woke up and looked around my room, knowing the kids were safely watching TV. I staggered downstairs to hug them. Claire gave me a full on body wrap and didn't want to let go, which is her M.O. lately. Max was willing to accept the embrace, but never looked up from Sid the Science Kid. Which was just fine with me. All was normal. Everyone was safe.
And I was grateful. So grateful.