Life is a window of vulnerability.
“Life is a window of vulnerability.” —Donna Haraway
8 month old O, is picking up bits of oatmeal and thawed berries with her burgeoning pincer grip. Once close to her lips, she pushes the food into her mouth with her other clenched hand. I’m half watching her, also eating oatmeal, sipping my coffee as the elixir it is, and underlining passages in We Have Never Lived On Earth, Kasia van Schaik’s debut story collection.
“It seemed like a magical power to be a parent, to witness the strange ventriloquism of one’s own past in a face so oblivious to it.”
When I look up, O’s face covered in shades of magenta from the berries framed by the November rain pattering outside the window makes me feel like I live in an impressionist painting. These days, she entertains herself enough for me to be present for her and for my morning reading routine.
Next to us, in the bathroom, S is crying, begging J to stop before he’s even begun the COVID-19 test. We’ve told him that, this time we are going to swab his throat as well as his nostrils, and he’s worried it will hurt more than usual. Unwilling to gaslight my children, I concur, but it will be over quickly and it’s more accurate.
“Knowledge is power, you know this! You got this!” J reasons with him.
S understands, but still, his body fights. He’s bawling and shrieking now. The test hurts more in anticipation than in practice, and I hate how our children must bear it.
His cries syncopate against the rain.
Throughout On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss contends with the difficulty that
“as mothers, we must somehow square our power with our powerlessness. We can protect our children to some extent. But we cannot make them invulnerable any more than we can make ourselves invulnerable.”
When S emerges at the table, O scrunches up her eyes and greets him with a wide gummy smile. She doesn’t yet understand the reality we live in. Or maybe she does and her gesture is a way of wit(h)nessing his hurt.
We count down the minutes to see the results. They’re negative. For now.
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