First, I wish to impress upon you that the terrible story I’m about to relay was, as with many similar mistakes, an act of passion, desperation and stupidity. I’d also like to convey that while I seek no sympathy or forgiveness, I have a strange compulsion to confess these mistakes as if releasing them from my head eases my burden though clearly I’m not the victim here. Thirdly, I wish to impress upon you just how difficult it has been to cope with Z during her extended phase of regularly smashing her older sister in the face. Z is very big for her age. D is small for her age. When Z hits, D goes down. We’re trying everything we can to curb this behavior, but nothing seems to work. It doesn’t always happen out of anger. Sometimes it happens just because. Because reliably D shrieks, collapses and convulses on the floor with tears and primordial noises, which Z finds fascinating if not darkly alluring. But she’s no doubt old enough to know better.
There were two balloons. As we piled out of the car Z, for no reason, reeled back and cracked D in the face with a hard plastic baby doll. Being sucker-cracked in the head could drive anyone to screaming tears. Shocked, D wailed and writhed loud enough to frighten the crows away. With eyes Mommy-Dearest wide, inches from Z’s face, I begged, “Why? Why? Why? Wedonothitinthisfamily–” I came dangerously close to asking if she’d like to know exactly what it feels like to be bashed in the head with hard plastic. But I got a hold of myself. Took deep breaths. Looked up at the sky. Fretted that my inner rage might cause the babies to evacuate my uterus. More deep breaths. I searched my mind’s rolodex for something, anything, that mattered to Z (my almost three-year-old). Then I got an idea (a wonderfully, horribly, awful idea). Sadly, I said, “I am sorry you hurt your sister. See her crying. This balloon is crying too. She cannot stay with a child who hits. This balloon is frightened and now she must fly free.” I released the purple balloon, calling to it as it climbed higher and higher, “I’m sorry Z hit her sister. I’m sorry you cannot stay. I’m sorry you’re so sad.” Perplexed, Z waved goodbye.
Z: She comes back?
Me: No, she won’t come back. Not until you learn to be gentle with your sister. Poor D. Poor balloon.
Z: (Shouting to the sky) I’m sorry! (To me) She comes back now?
Me: Not today. I’m very sorry you hurt your sister.
Z: (Panicking) She too high. She going to pop! I get her back! She popping up there!
Me: She won’t pop. She’s just going away.
Z: Too high! My balloon! My balloon! Come back! She scared! I can’t see her! D, you see her? Where she going!? No pop up there! (Sobbing) My balloon… my balloon… my balloon…
Drinking in the very last glimpses of her tiny balloon hundreds of feet in the air, I managed to coax her into the house whereupon D collapsed on the stairs in a heap of tears.
D: I just can’t… help it… It’s all too sad… and the balloon… she’s gone! She’s GONE!
Z: (Breaking down) I want my balloon… where she go, my balloon…. my balloon… daddy find my balloon… no hit… I sorry… my balloon…
On the couch D melted into me, crying, while Z rocked in my arms, crying.
Me: (Whispering) It’s only a balloon, D. It doesn’t have feelings. It’s just a story.
D: (Struggling) But it’s a… very sad story and… it… just makes… me… cryyyyy!!!!! (Hysteria)
This story ends an hour later with the three of us in my bed, one on each arm, amid sleepy sobs and sighs. When it was all over they were both asleep with puddles of drool beneath their quivering bottom lips. Ashamed, I wondered how in the world I could have ever spun such an insane web. Surely, they’ll need therapy for this one.
My father and I were on the sidewalk out front. I was five and deriving an alarming amount of pleasure from stepping on ants. We’d probably just come from the ice cream shop, playground or toy store. He probably told me to stop. But I could only laugh wickedly as I squashed my next helpless victim.
Dad: Why are you killing them? They’re crying.
Me: Ants don’t talk! (Stomp, squash, stomp, squash)
Dad: They speak ant language and that little ant’s mother is going to be worried when he doesn’t come home for dinner. She’ll be wondering where he is and she’ll wait and wait and wait for him to come home.
I imagined an ant mother, blue checkered apron fastened around her waist, calling from the front steps, “Jimmy! Jimmy!” Day would turn to night and I’d be tucked in bed, but she would still be out there, waiting. She’d probably be out there forever. But he’d never, ever, ever come. And she would cry and cry. Because I killed her son.