Saturday 24 June 2023

'Chalk Line' by Liv Norman

A morning of rain, more rain, and the children fractious – shrieking in turns at each other and me, sparking and agitating like boxed fireworks. They are two and three: almost twins, nothing between them except months of lost sleep. I’ll go mad inside. There’s a danger I’ll tear myself into tiny pieces, scatter to the wind. So, we are walking, my feet marking time: tip-tap, tip-tap, tip-tap, on through each blunt minute of the hours between lunch and dinner. In my hurry to leave I forgot socks, and a blister has formed on my heel. Every time I stop to rub it one of them escapes the confines of the pushchair, tiny rockets launching themselves towards brambles or dog shit or traffic. The effort of catching them, one then the other; the effort of keeping my patience, of avoiding eye contact with passers-by, makes sweat needle my armpits and bead my hairline. It is early autumn, suddenly warm – the sky now as clear and blue as any July day, and the younger one shouts, rair-o-plane! Look, mummy! Falling! My head snaps up and I see the chalk line drawn against the earth’s curve: the life-breath of a machine miles above us. But my heart and mouth are dry weights, and I can’t reassure him. I cannot lift him up and say: no, just watch a bit longer. It is only flying gloriously high. And I gather my children, these tender fragile babies, strapping them in with kisses; gripping the pushchair; trying to calm my heart. Trying to stop myself falling.

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