Her baby boy is still in the car seat, almost asleep. He is resting his hand on a toy, gazing at her sitting in the recliner. His eyes are on her, yet focusing on nothing. They slowly close and she wishes they weren’t in this living room, droopy with exhaustion and alone. It’s hard to imagine that only thirty miles away, there is a living room filled with laughing girls gathered around their mother who is celebrating her 41st birthday, watching her get ready to leave and meet up with a few gal pals to watch an animated children’s film about a silly, lost fish.
That’s where she, and her boy, should be right now. The ladies were going to ride together to the theater as the girls looked after the seven month old infant. Being a mother, though, means that plans can change quickly and often. At least that’s what she tells herself. This is being a mother. It has nothing to do with the pinch that had started at the bottom of her throat when she was asked to go on this spontaneous venture out of the house. It certainly isn’t because her stomach had immediately knotted when she opened the text and saw the invitation to meet up in a hour. Being a mom means things don’t always go perfectly. Not being able to make events is just a part of normal parenthood. It wasn’t due to her anxiety at all. Right?
When she had gotten the invitation, she knew she should go and celebrate with her friend. The last time she let someone watch her son for more than a couple hours, though, it didn’t go so well. She knew her friend’s daughters were responsible and had plenty of experience with babies but the fictional hand that held her throat would not relax its grip.
I’m going to make this work, she remembers thinking. She had called her husband and asked if their pickup was okay to drive because she remembered him mentioning something about it. It just needs gas before you go, he said.
She had buckled her fussy boy into the car seat, stocked the diaper bag and grabbed her purse. She had known she didn’t have any spending money left because their new budget didn’t start for another two days. She would use her debit card and try not think about it, even though she often griped at her husband for doing the same thing. This was a special occasion. He would understand. (She couldn’t help but think that, most likely, that was his usual logic as well. She made a mental note to stop harassing him about it.)
Her muscles had strained as she lifted the twenty one pound baby and his car seat with her right arm and the bags in the other. They went outside and she shut the front door behind them. Phew, was it hot. It was like stepping into a giant oven. She pushed on the closed door to make sure it latched. It popped open. She shut it again, pushed it and it popped open again. She growled, already irritated with the process of leaving.
The stupid door wouldn’t latch until she had decided to just lock the dead bolt (after taking the time to find the right key on the chain of course). She carried him and the bags into the garage and saw there wasn’t enough room on either side to get him into the pickup. She set the car seat and all the extra stuff down on the empty side of the garage and hopped into the pickup. She hates driving the pickup.
She backed out of the garage and went back in to get the baby and bags. She hauled them over to the pickup and held the door open to get everything in. Ding ding ding. It wouldn’t stop dinging unless she would close the door. It would take her at least five minutes to get everything situated and she didn’t think she could stand five minutes of loud dinging. She closed the door and stood outside with her son, in the afternoon heat.
They still needed gas and she still didn’t have money. It was hot out so she knew she would have to bring her son into the gas station with her to pay for it. She would have to unbuckle him from this annoyingly big pickup, drag his whole car seat inside because she needed to dig through her wallet and sign her name and she didn’t want to hold his twenty one pounds in one arm as she did that.
Once they would get to the house thirty miles away, she would have to nurse him before leaving for the movie and her friend would probably already be ready to go. And then she’d have to leave him with the girls and he really needed a nap and she didn’t know if he’d nap for them because he’s been in a very attached mood to her lately and knew he’d start fussing once he was overtired and none of the girls would be able to console him.
Plus, she hadn’t forgot about how she didn’t actually have any money to spend right now. And she really didn’t want to watch a cartoon anyway. The only thing she wanted to do was see her friend. That’s it.
But here they sit, back inside the house with the door that doesn’t latch and the lonely living room. A text saying, Sorry, I’m not able to make it work. We aren’t going anymore. Have fun!, sits her ‘Sent’ folder. The baby is now sleeping and that invisible hand on his mama’s neck is loosening its hold.
She should be disappointed. She should’ve tried harder to make it work. She should’ve remembered that she could’ve paid at the pump with her card. She should want to leave the house. She tells her husband often that she would like to go out and do something; be spontaneous like she used to be. She doesn’t understand how she is feeling, doesn’t know how to explain it. As she sits in the recliner, she tries to write down how she feels right now. Writing in third person is always easiest for her, even though she gets her past and present tense verbs so mixed up. But it’s realistic that way. Because she’s mixed up.
That’s it. That’s how she feels. She feels mixed up.