I start to write and then stop. I say, I don’t want to talk about this. I walk away, go in the kitchen, eat four macadamia nuts, count them, count the calories, come back to it. I still don’t want to talk about it, but if I don’t write now I never will and the feeling will come and go as they have these past few months, easy and gone, with the windows open and the fog always promising that it is just about to burn off.
I had the feeling for days something was about to happen. I kept saying, I am about to lose something but I do not know what or from where. There were crows in the walkway and low grey clouds for weeks and I slept in fits and woke up wondering where I was. I woke up wondering where you were.
I dropped my baby in the bathwater. I want to delete the sentence and write almost, because the word almost would work too, and the word almost would make me a better mother, but it wasn’t almost. This is not something I dreamt about though it is something I would dream about. The split second of it. The lukewarm bathwater. The orange glow of the bathroom. The dripping faucet. My voice but not my voice calling for him. It was just a second.
The human eye can perceive between 30 to 60 frames per second. Is this why it feels so long when I think back on it?
I find myself needing to clarify for worries sake that he is just fine and was just fine and we did all the smart things new parents do when they overreact and stay up all night keeping vigil. I tell the doctor over the phone it was just a second, he seems fine, it was just one second. But this one second is seared into my mind, his small arms, the back of his head, the slip of his weight from my hand. The look on his face like I’d betrayed him, like I had finally let him down in the way we both knew I always would. All 60 frames of the one second on repeat as I lay in bed all night listening for his breath.
Another writer, who is also in some ways a very old friend, wrote me a letter back when I was just thinking about having a baby and I shared with her the apprehension that shared with everyone back then, which is how does one become a mother and remain a writer. To which I still do not have the answer though I am trying to live it in practice. I just found her letter wedged between the pages of a journal I rarely open as I am packing today to leave the sea again and go back to the mountains.
The letter says (it being motherhood): “There’s something sad but also joyful in the feeling that you can’t do it wrong since it’s never a job that’s quite done. In some way, I feel that way about writing. That it’s never over – and it comes with both the elation of constant learning and the anxieties of knowing I’ll never be as good as I want to be.”
I tell my own mother over the phone, because she is still also never done mothering me, that it was just one second. I tell her, “it was no longer than if I were to dunk him into the ocean in a baptismal sort of way.” It’s something I’ve seen my friends do here in the waters out front. The waters that are now glass like shades of love-me blue because the fog has finally worn off and the sea has calmed and the sun is out. And even though I am packing to leave again tomorrow, I do not feel as if I am about to loose anything.