If you’ve ever physically counted the amount of minutes in an hour – consecutively – for three or four hours at a time, chances are you – for whatever reason – suffer insomnia.
I don’t have the energy to pull myself out of bed. I could lay under the crisp white sheets of my king size tomb with the cool air-conditioning blowing gently around my face, the long curtains pulled tightly across the ranch sliders, the room dark and still, and not move for a week…a month even.
Maybe nobody would notice and I’d become cocooned in the safety of my bed forever.
No facing the outside world. No listening to reality berating me with its nasty conversations inside my head, ‘You need to get up, you need to carry on, get yourself together’.
‘Shut up,’ I tell them silently and pull the blankets up higher around my neck, burrowing underneath my pillow. Real sleep hasn’t visited in a very long time – not in anything longer than a three-hour stretch at least. Nights are long but the days are even longer. It’s morning already but I could swear it were still the middle of the night – the hours just seem to morph from one day to the next. The door handle to my bedroom pings open and I hear the footsteps of my three-year-old, Flynn.
‘Hello mama,’ he says, his little just-woken-up cheeks still red. He pads towards me with his arms outstretched. I lift open the sheets and let him in breathing his beautiful smell in deeply and grabbing hold of his tiny body for as long as I can, trying to drain out some of his happy into my own soul.
It’s already 7.30 and I’m going to be late again. I can’t fight it. It’s time to get up.
Without want I drag my tired empty body out of bed and take my son into his bedroom.
‘Come on little buddy, let’s get you up and ready for kindy,’ I say, pulling his faded blue t-shirt over his head and carrying him on my hip downstairs to our kitchen.
I make his lunch of vegemite sandwiches with the crusts cut off and cut into tiny inch sized pieces. Packing his sunhat with a brim on it so his face doesn’t get burnt, his cot sheets for the little plastic mattress on the floor where he sleeps with all the other toddlers and a change of clothes – in the unlikely event he might have an accident – into his bag.
A simple, morning routine but right now it’s the only thing keeping me sane…the only thing keeping me going.
I wipe up his toast crumbs from the bench and help him down from his stool.
‘Okay let’s get in the car,’ I try to lift my voice so at least he feels like his mummy isn’t a vacant robot.
‘Kindy day,’ he says and skips to the garage, reaching up to pull open the door handle of our black BMW four-wheel drive and climbing into his booster seat.
At Bonny Babes – a family run daycare centre with bright oversized native animals painted on its outer walls, just three kilometres from our home – I sign his name in at the register, giving his soft cheek a big kiss.
‘See you later my beautiful boy. Have a wonderful day and remember mummy loves you…’
‘Bye mama, love u,’ he chirps.
In the time it takes me to drive back home my mummy face has gone and the clouds in my head begin to go grey once more.
Walking back into my kitchen where the morning’s dishes look at me, taunting my laziness, I go over the list of jobs I need to get done today. Piles of washing and ironing, the grocery shopping…and I really must get Flynn some new undies pairs of them just seem to keep going missing, either lost at kindy or discarded in place of swimmers at the beach.
It’s a hot day in the middle of January, 2007. Our home in Hope Island, a resort at the northern end of the Gold Coast, is fiercely bolstering itself against the heatwave with an air conditioning unit that sounds as if it might soon take off. Laying my body on the sofa, I focus on the ceiling trying to see colour inside the cold white paint. Minutes, then hours pass.
By late afternoon I head to the grocery store and put my hand-written list inside my shorts pocket. I walk around the lino-lined floor of the supermarket mostly hoping it might open up and swallow me. Standing in the detergent aisle with the metal stacking shelves in front of me, anger wells up inside my gut. I scan the boxes…there’s plenty of packets of top loader options – in fact every single type of washing powder except the one I’m looking for. The pack I normally buy, for sensitive skin in the soft mint and grey box isn’t on the shelf. I need it because he likes it.
Where is it? Why don’t they have any front loader sensitive skin washing powder? My mind gets louder and louder until the words violently spit from my mouth like sparks off a metal welder.
‘Why is there no sensitive skin washing powder for christ’s sake?’
Without realising, I’ve just yelled at the top of my voice at a carton of wash powder.
My feet give way under me and I fall to a heap on the floor, my shoulders heaving as tears spill out in floods down my face…hands clenching at my bare thighs.
‘This isn’t fair…it just isn’t fair…’ I howl.
A lady aged in her mid-50s, wearing a pair of large framed gold sunglasses on top of her head comes and gently places her hand on my shoulder.
‘Are you alright love, did you fall?’ she asks calmly, lending her hand to help me back up on my feet.
Did I fall…? That would seem like a perfectly good reason why a 31-year-old woman has collapsed in a heaving mess in the middle of an upmarket suburban supermarket.
People shuffle past pushing their trolleys slowly in an attempt to subtly sneak a glimpse of the trainwreck on the floor in front of them.
‘Thank you…yes, I’m’ okay…thanks. I’ll be fine,’ I reply trying not to get eye contact.
‘Are you sure, do you want me to help you?’ she asks, kindly.
‘No,’ I say bluntly, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand.
“She’s being so strong”, they’d say loud enough for me to hear but not quite directly at me. “God, she’s so brave, I could never be like her. I would never be able to keep going.”
Words from my many well-wishing friends and family swirl around my head and stick to my heart like labels on a fruit-preserving jar. Apparently, if you have a smile painted on your face and no redness from tears welling in your eyes surely you must be okay. In the past three months I have managed to become a master of deception…like a peridot clown with a painted on face…if they only knew the real me isn’t as strong as they think. Isn’t as brave as they’d like her to be and maybe doesn’t want to keep going…she just wants the hurt to stop.
It has been sixty-four days since the moment that changed my life.
I bend down to pick up my handbag off the floor and turn on my heels leaving my trolley and its contents stranded in the middle of the aisle and the nice lady with her gold sunglasses and flee towards the automatic doors, ignorantly pushing through shoppers picking out their trolleys. I keep going like a woman possessed attempting to hold back my tears as I frantically search for my car.
All my hair has fallen out of its hair tie and stuck to my face in the muggy wind. I must have looked all kinds of crazy. Flicking down the car visor I slide open the mirror to look at myself.
Shit. I really do look like shit.
It was such a kind gesture, of the lady with the sunglasses, to offer to help me. She wouldn’t have any clue – neither would all the other nosey shoppers – the reason for my breakdown. To them I could have been some deranged woman who had just had a fight on the phone with her boyfriend, after finding out he’d been cheating. Or a frustrated mother with young children, frazzled from lack of sleep and the constant strain of motherhood.
To the outside world they wouldn’t have the faintest idea 56 days ago I touched my husband’s casket for the last time as it was slowly and gently led into the ovens of the Newstead crematorium returning to me in a small hermetically sealed jar. All I had left was a 15cm silver urn sealed shut with his remains inside.
Now I have lost him forever. I will never see, hear or touch him again.
My childhood sweetheart my best friend, the man who had been my lover for over half my life and what will probably always remain both the best and the worst thing of all…the father of my little boy.
I am a widow. I will wear it like a thick black cloak over my heart.
Love to know your (honest) thoughts if you’d want to keep reading…Lady Mama Gxox