My child – Laura
When she was born we didn’t notice it at first. No one did. Not the heavyset doctor that delivered her, not the translucent nurse that shouted prayers into the night, not her father nor I.
She came out with a full set of inky hair and murky steel eyes. I swear I saw the moon in her eyes. Never the sun.
She was like any other child, she cried, she ate, she played and she slept. Weary nights turned into dragging days. My insides jolted with a combination of butterflies and candy floss. My second precious child. The nights were dark, but she was right there with me. She was intoxicating, her raven hair curled up into small pipes, harboring a vague scent of bitter herbs. A smell I couldn’t quite place.
As she grew up, her sooty hair turned the color of the harvest and her eyes sparkled grass green. That is when we began seeing signs of it. Small ones, but undoubtedly signs. She never wished to sleep next to me, it was as if she didn’t need me. It stung deep, but she was her own, and I respected that. I kept the pain in that place in your chest cavity in which you can open and lock things up forever.
The indications were subtle at first. To any other parent, it might have been barely noticeable. She wasn’t very old at the time, just on the verge of forming words. We relaxed on the mushy green couch in the living room. The four of us together devoured an oceanic national geographic segment entangled in each other. Legs over arms, a head on a stomach, hands on a back. She got up and marched her little sweet bare feet toward me, she had an intense gaze while she searched for my eyes.
“The sea is dark, mom, and so cold -” she said in a deep husky voice, a voice unfamiliar to me. She shivered, and when I touched her she was ice cold. When I tried to hug her she released herself with feisty arms. She had never seen the ocean.
I rose to my feet and questioned her, but got no answers. Seconds later she hurled her doll across the room in a tempered fit and hit her big brother blankly in the face like nothing had happened.
She continued to amaze us, and equally worry us. She was precious, I loved her with the throbbing power only mothers know. She used to play little games with our cat, talking to him in made-up languages, rubbing his belly in endless circles. Even though she never needed me, I needed her. She liked me, surely, but she never needed me. If she loved me? I will never know.
When she turned four she single-handedly took apart her big brother's mechanical car. I remembered it as it was yesterday. It was a dripping afternoon, the colorful crispy leaves were falling off the oak in the backyard. I was doing the dishes from last night’s stew when she released the hundreds of shiny metal pieces at my feet below the sink.
There was nothing wrong with her taking the car apart. She had abolished plenty of items before. The part that disturbed me was that one hour later she had put it back together and planted it back on her brother’s desk as if it had never left its parking space. I don’t know how she did it. What I can say is that there was no one else in the house at the time but her and me. I had already called my husband to let him know he needed to buy a new toy car, preferably before our son returned home.
One wet snowy morning when she was ten she asked me to make her a cup of black tea with one sugar. Her eyes hollow, observing me. When I asked her why she shook her head in utter confusion and proceeded to roll her eyes “Because that is what I always have darling”. She had never drunk a cup of tea in her life.
When she was fifteen she asked if we could take her on a trip. We happily obliged. She had never asked for anything in her life. I didn’t know this was the trip when I would finally lose her. I wouldn’t have changed anything. She asked to be taken off the coast of Japan, the Pacific Ocean.
It was an odd request, but we booked the flight tickets. Her brother was nervous. She made him edgy, she always had, I didn’t blame him. Once we got there we hired a boat, she sailed it. She mapped the road, she navigated, and we let her. She was almost sixteen at the time. We sailed for days and nights on rough seas, treacherous waters surrounded us from all sides. The clashing sound of the waves hitting the hull after sundown terrified me, my cold hands clenched the wooden bed. My eyes wide open in the darkness. She steered the vessel with experienced hands during the heated days and moon glowing nights. She steered it with an unexplainable knowledge that seemed to be buried in her brittle bones. Her brother hid below deck for days, he emerged solely for eggs and cornbread. He thought we let her do too much, he didn’t understand her. He didn’t know.
I knew by then.
We reached a spot in the middle of the ocean.
She stood by the edge of the dark waters, her bare feet on the deck. She never took her eyes off the endless blue giant masses and with great calm let us know that,
“It was here the ship went down –“, she took a deep breath, her fragile body swayed with the wind “A long time ago, during the war, we stopped here. We were winning the war, but we got hit from beneath. I was petrified but I didn’t let them know. My name was Hess Jackson, this was my vessel. It was here I died, with my crew, in these dark freezing waters.” Her eyes went empty, her golden curls blew around her face like an untamed animal. The scent of herbs reached me from her hair, from the unknown waters, I had never smelled it so powerful before. I knew now that it was from him.
She didn’t move, my child. I looked down, I could make out a huge shadow well below the water surface. A ship had gone down here that was clear. We snorkeled around the location. The shipwreck was there. The waters were indeed freezing.
I didn’t reply. I had no words, my eyes welled up. She was never mine to begin with.
Later I looked up the name of the vessel. ‘The Eagle’ had indeed gone down on this exact location, with Captain Hess Jackson on board over seventy years ago during World War II. He had died with his ship and most of his crew. Their bodies had never been retrieved, they had either drowned, frozen to death, or been eaten by sea life. Long wet streaks formed on my cheeks, the slow sobs surfaced as I mourned them and her.
At eighteen I let her go. I haven’t seen her since. My heart cries for her, my arms thirst for her, but she was never mine to keep. She wasn’t anyone’s to keep.
I love you, Laura. Goodbye moon-eyes.