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13 January 2021

“Why was your mum crying?”


“Oh. She wasn’t crying, her eyes are just red and watering from cutting up onions. For breakfast. We had egg and onion beigels for breakfast.”


“Oh that’s funny I thought she was crying about your brother.”


“No... she’s fine. It wasn’t a big deal. He’s fine. She wasn’t crying.”


I hate crossing the road. I don’t have very good peripheral vision and also always seem to have a sore neck, so turning to check for traffic is confusing and annoying for me. I’ll always walk further to find a zebra crossing or a set of lights or a traffic island, but even then I still hate it.


“Whatever you do today please do not lose this invitation strip, or you won’t be allowed to go to your friend's birthday party. Put it in your hand and do not let go of it until you’ve put it in her hand.”


Half way across the zebra crossing, the strap of my brother’s school bag slipped off of his shoulder, and in an effort to wiggle it back up again he dropped the tiny RSVP slip you used to cut off the bottom of paper invitations.


“...do not lose this invitation slip...”


Of course he turned around to find it. Of course the car didn’t see him, because he was only 5 or 6, and of course he was bent over looking for a tiny scrap of paper. Of course he was ok, because mum screamed and ran and cried and scooped him up as cars screeched and honked. Confused at being told off whilst clutching the precious slip in his hand, my brother proudly said “I got it”, muffled into my mum’s chest as she squeezed him tight, her arms no doubt tense with the combination of panic-fuelled adrenaline and memories of her own childhood trauma at being run over on a zebra crossing.


I struggled to get my keys out of my pocket on the rainy front doorstep tonight. Tangled around the strap of the facemask I’d just worn when collecting my own son from the childminder, and confused by the new keys for the shed which I must have forgotten to put back on the shelf after repotting some houseplants at the weekend.


It only took a second. The dark, the rain, the quiet of his tiny footsteps even in his slightly-too-big trainers. I scream his name and gasp STOP! STOP! and know I’m running towards the road to stop him but can’t feel it or remember it so I must have actually flown over to him and not actually used my feet at all.


I scoop him up. I squeeze him tight, my arms no doubt tense with the combination of panic-fuelled adrenaline and memories of my own childhood trauma at watching my brother almost get run over on a zebra crossing.


We get inside. He sits on the step. “New potty!”


We take his new potty upstairs and he sits down on it for the first time in his tiny life.


I sit on the closed toilet, panting, trying not to vomit as what happened catches up with me.


“Relaxing, happy”, he says.


Whatever you say, kiddo.


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©2019 by Lauren Stranks