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Isabelle Sanders
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anniversary219.jpg
Art by Henry Stanton 2019

ANNIVERSARY

 

by Isabelle Sanders

 

I wake up on the hard floor. We must have fallen asleep here last night. He not wanting to go to bed, snuggling against me on the floor, with a couple of cushions for support, and no blanket, as it’s the height of summer and it’s boiling hot. It’s been a difficult day again. Several meltdowns, refusal to wash, or put on clean clothes. My patience has been tried. Sorely. From the moment I got back from work, at 5pm, till whenever it was we fell asleep. Non-stop. Crying, whining, hitting himself, pulling books off shelves, throwing them at me and at his father. Hitting and pinching. Banging his head on the floor. And the neighbors called security again. Two men, one over sixty, and the other barely 18, wearing the uniform of the private company hired by our complex knocked on the door and asked if we needed help. My husband dealt with them, sending them away, while I was cradling our son, temporarily quiet because of their intrusion. But as soon as they were gone it started again, the rage, the hitting. I’m going to be black and blue again for the next three weeks. There goes my plan to swim in the new outdoor pool in our complex. Whatever would the neighbors say. This time it’s the police they would send for and they would take my husband away. I look at my arms, gingerly. I see nothing, and they are covered in long sleeves, which is rather unusual for a summer day. Am I already bruised? I try and remember the last time this happened but draw an annoying blank. Then I realize I can’t feel my son’s body next to mine, and as I sit up and turn around: he is not here.  A flicker of hope: did he go to bed by himself? Was last night’s meltdown the precursor of some behavioral progress? That has happened before. Like the time he’d finally figured out how to use the toilet, and he’d been throwing books three nights in a row. This is part of the course. Each item of development, whenever it happens, is painful and difficult. And it doesn’t always stick.  Sometimes when the going gets tough, or when he’s working on a new skill, he regresses. My job, I keep reminding myself, is to help him through these phases. It requires patience, which doesn’t come naturally. 

I get up from the floor. My back hurts. My head hurts. I wish my husband had woken me up. There is a blanket near me, which I’ve obviously kicked out the way in the night. Not surprising, really, given the heat. Come to think of it, I am a bit cold, so I pick up the blanket and gather it around me as I stand upright. The light is all wrong too. Is it because of my headache?  Am I about to get sick? I am not feeling great, to be honest. A bit nauseaous, too.  I turn to look at the window and step closer, incredulous. It’s snowing! My son will love that. What a joke. Snow in the summer.  The ground is well covered. At least 50 cm. Something wrong here. Even a freak snow storm in summer wouldn’t bring that much snow. I move towards the corridor, and to my son’s room. Closed. He’s clearly still asleep. I open the door, carefully, to look at him sleeping. But he’s not here. His bed is made. He hasn’t slept there. He must have gone to our room after all, cozied up with his father, which is why he didn’t wake me. I walk there, and the door is closed, which is unusual. I turn the handle, carefully so it doesn’t squeak, and look in. My husband is sleeping, neatly, on his side, but there’s no one near him. Worried, I go look in the bathroom, in the kitchen: no sign of him. He must have got out, somehow. Maybe he saw the snow and decided to go and build a snow man. I must go look for him, anything could have happened. First, I wake my husband.

I shake him by the shoulder, and he opens his eyes, and recoils from me: ‘You smell disgusting!’ I ignore this, storing it to think about later, and I tell him our son is missing. He looks incredulous, upset even, but doesn’t rush to get up and help me look.

“So, you’ve drunk yourself into oblivion again? Well done. Only don’t count on me to remind you this time.” And with this he jumps out of bed, grabs his clothes and locks himself in the bathroom. Ten minutes later he’s out of the house, with his work bag and his car keys.

I go to the window again. I can’t quite string my thoughts together. He had his leather coat on when he left. He didn’t seem surprised by the snow. He said I was smelly. I go to the bathroom and run myself a bath. While it’s running, I look out the window, down to the snowy garden. I feel a wave of nausea coming. I shiver. Am I sick? I go back to the bathroom and switch off the water. The bath is a bit hotter than I normally like, but if I’m sick, it will kill off the germs. I step in the water, slowly, and once my feet are accustomed to the heat I sit and then lay down.

Where is my son? How can I not know? I remember last night vividly. Or at least I did when I woke up, but now the memory is fading. And there are gaps. I remember it being summer, but it’s clearly winter. And why is my husband so angry with me? Or is it disdainful? I couldn’t quite make it out. It was as if he couldn’t be bothered even to answer me, as though he’d trained himself not to look at me. I try and remember our last interaction. There was some yelling. A lot of it. I close my eyes and I hear myself yelling at him that I can’t take it anymore, that he isn’t doing enough. I remember calling him names. Bad names. I said he was a bad parent. I said he didn’t love his son, and that he was a coward. And then I hear him yelling back at me. That I was a worthless drunk, that he couldn’t possibly be a father to our son while I was doing such a crap job of being a wife and a mother. That I needed to pull myself together and think of our son’s needs before mine. I flinch when I remember us screaming, and yelling insults at each other, with our son just here, listening to me shouting about how hard it was to care for him.

I get out the bath and grab a towel. I just have to check what the date is. I go to the bedroom to look for my phone. It’s not there. Back in the living room, I scan the floor. If I was lying on the floor last night, I probably had my phone with me. I was probably on social media, bitching about my son and husband to my so-called ‘support network’, a group of professional women I’ve never met but who all have children with Special Needs. A proper lost bunch we are, trying to mother our “special” kids and hold down a job and a marriage. This makes me realize that I probably should be at work. Should I? I don’t even know what the day is. As soon as I find my phone, I’ll check the date and my to do list. That should help.

I find it under the sofa, behind an empty bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. It still has some charge, which is just as well as I have no idea where my charger is. It says February 23. I’m about six months behind. WTF? I log on to my email. Nothing from work. Lots of Facebook notifications. I click on the app and scroll through. All of them from the support group. Hearts, hugs, teary faces. And some replies to my post. I follow them.

“I’m so sorry for your loss. This must be such a hard time for you.”

“Hugs from us all in New Jersey. I wish there was something I could say to make you feel better”

“It never goes away, but it will get easier.”

“Sending thoughts and prayers to you and your family”

I scroll up to my post. I know what’s in there now. I remember. But I need to read it for myself.

 

“Dear Friends,

I write this on the six months’ anniversary of my son’s death. He died one evening in July. He fell out a second storey window.

That evening I posted on this group that I couldn’t take another night of meltdowns and tantrums. And guess what. I don’t have to now.

He fell out the window while my husband and I were fighting about who was the worse parent, and who was or wasn’t pulling their weight. I was screaming the sort of thing I wrote on here. My son heard me say that I couldn’t take caring for him anymore. That he was too much work. That I hated my life. I don’t know why he was at the window. I don’t know why he fell. I don’t know if it was deliberate.

I’ll never be able to live with myself anymore. But guess what. I’m too much of a coward to kill myself. So, I’ve become a full-blown alcoholic. I was pretty much well on the way before, but now I’m really it. And I’m not even trying to get better. I don’t want to get better.

My husband won’t look at me. He won’t divorce me either. Not yet, at least. I lost my job so he’s supporting me. He’s paying for my booze. It’s not much, only three or four bottles a day. Really. I keep hoping that one day I’ll wake up and that this will have been a dream. The wine helps.

I won’t be posting here again. I just wanted to let you know why I hadn’t been around for the last six months, and to wish you all good luck. “

 

I put down the phone and I go to the kitchen and help myself to a fresh bottle.


Isabelle Sanders is an academic philosopher living and working in Turkey. She writes in different genres, but finds that her experience of living as an immigrant and of raising an autistic son creep into most of her stories. 





Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 


                             


His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.


 


A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library atwww.brightportfal.com.


 

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.

In Association with Fossil Publications