I adopted an orphaned giant. He ate custard for breakfast and twirled swings into knots. On the hilltop next to our house, with his hands stuffed into his pockets, he raised his coat above his head and ran around screaming, trying to catch the wind.
Each day he grew and grew, heading for the sky. So I let him go barefoot into puddles of mud to soak up the calcium, so he could branch up, and out. But one day he stopped. Just like that. He didn’t budge another inch.
I asked him why, but he just shrugged and said maybe that was it for him. That was as tall as he was going to be. So he traded the sun for LCDs, spending days, hours and minutes signing into screens. I brought a bowl of custard to his room, but it went cold, a yellow skin wrinkling on top.
But you love custard, I said.
Not anymore, he said, that stuff’s for kids.
I told myself that he’ll start growing again in the spring. But that’s when I noticed him shrink. He wasn’t ducking to get through doorways anymore. So I asked what was wrong, but our orphan boy said he was fine.
But he wasn’t.
He was getting smaller every day. I watched him through the crack in his door, transcribing pre-approved thoughts onto the keyboard. A box popped up: a new conversation. If I hadn’t have been blinking, I could’ve sworn I saw him shrink by an inch at least.
So I went peeking into places I shouldn’t be and into conversations I wasn’t in, and between the words filled with Zs instead of Ss, it was there. I saw what made our boy shrink. It was a slaughterhouse of syllables, letters and words as blades and knives, cutting him down, shredding him into pieces. All aimed at a human being. My human being. My son.
I took him to our hilltop, the one where he used to fly. But he sat on a rock, limp as a willow. He asked me why we were there, and I told him that I used to come to this hilltop with a giant once. A giant orphan boy, bigger than any boy I ever knew.
I sat down and reached for him in all the ways I could. I told him I knew what had been happening, and as I pulled on his arm, I saw his wounds, his self-pruning. He crumpled, and sap rolled down his cheeks.
What do you mean? He said, pulling his arm away.
But he didn’t shrivel from me as I entwined my hand in his and told him about the first day I saw him. He was the biggest baby of the bunch. I could barely hold him in my arms, but my love for him was gigantic and would wrap around him a hundredfold.
And with that, he whispered to me: But you’re the only one, Mum. You’re the only one.