The child rearing books say that if you feel you’ve reached the end of your tether it is best to leave the child alone in the house until you have calmed down. So that’s why I’m sitting at the end of East Fettes Avenue in my pyjamas. I’ve had no sleep for three nights. It’s been weeks since I had a meal in peace. The flat is in a right state with dirty clothes piled up beside the broken washing machine, dishes floating in cold greasy water in the blocked sink. The smell in the bathroom is unbelievable.
My eyes feel raw and gritty, my hair straggles over my shoulders. There’s a hole in the sole of my slippers and I can feel the damp slush soaking into my socks. It’s four am, so there’s nobody about. Just the occasional swish of a taxi or lone car speeding past on the main road. I’m not the only person awake though. There are some lit up windows in a few of the flats and houses. A snell wind whistles round my shoulders. I wish I’d grabbed a jacket before tearing outside. If I had stopped to do that I don’t know what I might have done. I’m still shaking with rage. Jack’s astonished face as I raised my hand to him, followed by hysterical giggles. The giggles chilled me into sense. I dropped my hand and scrabbled for the front door lock. I had to push Jack’s body away when he tried to follow me. As I slammed the door on him, I heard him roar.
It’s started to snow now. Jack will be watching it from the window. He loves snow. He’s not very good at making snowmen but he loves squishing the snow between his fingers. That’s not the only thing he likes squishing. I can still smell the shit he smeared all over himself this evening. I’d dropped off for a few minutes in front of Eastenders. The next thing I knew, this giggling figure was poking me in the stomach. “Jack – problem, Jack smelly.” I had to shower him down. He’d let fly in his pants and then thoroughly explored the result. I hurled his clothes into the bin and helped him into clean pyjamas. I sat him in front of a video and set to scrubbing the brown stains off the carpet. I was tipping the filthy water down the loo when Jack came up behind me and grabbed me. Half the contents of the bucket went all over me. I couldn’t stop screaming. It all came out. Words he couldn’t understand but which I yelled with enough vitriol to frighten him. I shut him out of the bathroom, ripped off my clothes and stood under the shower. By the time I had dressed in my pyjamas, I was calmer. I could hear Jack singing the same song over and over again. When I found him in the kitchen he was sitting on the floor with the bin upturned, sorting through his soiled clothes. I yanked him to his feet and hissed into his face. “That’s it. The last bloody straw!” My hand was millimetres away from his cheek when he giggled and I let him go.
I wonder if he is trying to get out of the house. For months now he has barely left my side. I hope the neighbours wouldn’t be woken by his roars. I can usually distract him with some music or a chocolate. But I’m not there. I’m sitting outside the church, getting wet. I’ll make myself ill if I stay out here. I have to go back.
I turn the key in the lock. Jack comes rushing towards me, giggling. He has taken off his pants. A two year old boy’s nakedness is both lovely and vulnerable. A forty four year old trailing around with no pants on is just desperate. Early onset dementia is a cruel blow to someone who used to run a company.
“White stuff,” he mumbles, “Jack likes white stuff. Out now? Out?”
“Tomorrow, Jack,” I say. I pick up scattered soiled garments, put them in a black plastic bag and tie off the ends. I find Jack’s third change of clothing and hang my soaked pyjamas on the radiator. I pull on an old t-shirt and put the TV on in the bedroom. Jack climbs into bed and stares at the screen. I lie down beside him. Tomorrow we will play in the snow.