He ran up from behind and threw a hug around her legs as she cooked a pot of water for tea. I think that’s how it happened.
“Grandma says you’ll have to change my bandage.”
Kirin arrives for his visit with gauze, ointment and medical tape to hold the dressing in place, detailed instructions. They send him with a scissor. I do not have one, but I resent this gesture. Because I should have lots of things and don’t.
“Does it hurt?”
“You want cereal?”
It is Saturday. He watches cartoons while I try to concentrate on getting it together so we can go do something.
I really don’t remember what was so important that we couldn’t just leave. Everything was crucial back then. Making lists and arranging piles of stuff, folding and tearing up pieces of paper. Moving the bed from one side of the room to the other. Counting pills and losing count, having to start all over from somewhere in the middle.
We ride the bus to Toys-R-Us. We buy an action figure and two big bottles of wine at the liquor store. He is hungry. We pass three fast food places until we get to the pizzeria that sells beer. There’s a black and white movie playing on a small TV on top of the fridge where they keep the sodas. Kirin only pays attention to the commercials because they are in color. When he’s done eating, we go back home.
It takes me all day to even look at the wound, a deep and throbbing third degree burn that spreads across the width of the child’s upper arm. My guilt catches in my throat as I pull the bloody cotton from his skin. I am confused by what I see. The whole area looks like uncooked meat.
Kirin holds his breath. His eyes are squeezed shut, and when he opens them, he asks, “You know what you’re doing, right?”
I cannot help but feel relieved that I was not to blame for what happened.
But aren’t I? After all, a little boy should be with his mother.
* Artwork by Scott Conary