Something about surviving the noise
All those words.
Shouting. To be heard.
I am 39.
We are late. It’s my fault, and his fault, and nobodies fault. Standing at the chopping board, I can see three permission forms fluttering on the fridge in need of a signature. One for each and due today. All due today. The spelling list is half done, and we’re two days behind on Year 1 readers. Children are talking about socks for Edu Dance, and talking about the faction carnival and talking about what Marley said to Henry in maths extension yesterday. Year 4 funnies. My mind is fragmenting so I think ‘peel the carrots, wash the flasks, pull the uniforms off the line’. Come on, focus. It’s getting louder, I can’t hear myself, I shout into the dense air, and now someone is crying.
We run for the Kindy door.
I’m sorry, I know, I’m really sorry.
The guardian of the door pointedly ignores me.
You’re late son! Again! All the kids are on the mat. Run!
He turns a panicked face to me as an arm tugs him inside.
He is 4.
I am 29.
The baby is wriggling, fighting against my breast. He pushes away with ferocious indignation. The woman in white is breathing short, rancid puffs into my ear, a torrent of staccato declaring my failure, insisting I hold like this, sit like that, position baby just so, and ‘go, go, go, NOW’! He rejects yet again, choosing instead to force a fat fist into his screaming mouth. She recoils outraged and slaps palms to thigh.
Listen, girl, if you aren’t willing to feed that baby, I’m not wasting my time.
The room empties in ferocious footsteps.
He is 1 day.
I am 15.
One row from the back, wedged between the wall and space. In front, line upon impossible line of integers. Symbols, numbers, rhythm and pattern. Behind, whispering. Giggling discord. I can’t hear, shh, I can’t hear, oh please stop. I am damp, foggy. My name is repeated, I stare in reply. Into his condemning, disapproving sneer, the chalky board, the calculations, the air between us. I hear a rumbling like the growl of a pack at night. The pulsing characters goad me to compute, but all I see is noise.
I am alone.
I am 5.
It is perfect! The colours glow on the page. This is the best, the best ever! I can’t wait to show her. I’m running faster than a train. I could beat Dad’s Holden I’m so fast. I’m ahead of the others I’m going to be first. I can show her that mine is the best. The screen door rips open, the hollow pounding of immature feet resonate on ancient floorboards, bags dumped in a pile and discarded.
Mum! Mum! You’ve got to see.
Puffing, gasping. I wave it in front of her.
This, this is the rainbow. See? Over the river with the clouds. There’s you, Dad, me. Do you see? Mum?
She sits still as a planet staring at the open newspaper on the table amongst the debris of dinner prep begun. Nudging her arm is fruitless, she doesn’t see the picture nor hear my voice. Eventually, deflated, I tiptoe away.
She was 39.
At 5 I couldn’t understand where my Mum went. Now I know. It just got too loud.
We’re similar. Maybe you are as well. Perhaps you need to hear what I need to remember again and again: our Father God hears our heart’s cry.
He quiets my soul.
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Oh my goodness, what an emotional read, amazing writing. Thank you Katie