Sunday 21 December 2014

Chapter Four

NB: I'm telling a little story with this blog, so if you're coming to it for the first time, I'd suggest starting at the bottom and working upwards. Thanks for reading :) xx

Little boy runs outside
Perhaps he wants somewhere to hide
There is nobody to watch him there
But he doesn’t really care
He likes the garden, green and fresh
The sun beats down on his pale flesh...
The innocent know not of fear
The voice of caution won’t reach their ear
He saw the pond there waiting for him
And didn’t know he couldn’t swim
He didn’t know he’d drown and die
He never saw his mother cry

When I was 18, a family friend’s toddler drowned. It was sadder than the saddest thing I could have imagined and so cruel, unfair and unexpected. I will never forget his mother’s eyes at the funeral. They looked right at me, still searching, and I wished with all my heart that I could retrieve him from wherever he was, hand him to her and say, ‘it’s ok, I’ve found him, you can have him back now.’ But I couldn’t.

I hate this poem. I hate it because it’s dark and sinister and I feel threatened by the part of me that couldn’t help writing it in the aftermath. I sat at my computer wanting to write something beautiful, because he was beautiful and I loved everyone who loved him. But all I could see and feel was the horror and shock of it all, and that came out.

Now, at 21, the scene I never saw and the searching eyes are the shadow of all my thoughts again. I am not thinking about them right now, on the toilet in a flat with clean white walls and wooden floors. I am not thinking about them when a two year old calls out my name, making me try and wee faster. I hate going to the toilet; leaving him on the other side of the door, where I cannot see him, scares me. As an au pair, I take my number one task of keeping the children alive extremely seriously. But in a world full of hazards and tragedy it feels like an impossible undertaking, and hard as it is when just Luca is home, it’s even worse when they both are. When they start to fight with each other, I wish that the floors were carpeted and furniture with corners had never been invented.

I have hidden all the scissors and big knives on top of a cabinet; Elian is tall enough to open the kitchen drawers and I am worried he’ll take one out. (It’s not that I think he is a psychopath; he’s very sweet. I just know accidents can happen.) I’ve even hidden some of their toys – any which are slightly heavy and could cause cerebral damage should they have an unfortunate collision with a skull are behind my wardrobe. I can’t hide all their little cars; there are too many and they’re more or less the only things the boys play with; so instead I’ve turned to my old pal God for help. I have long and strange conversations with him, bartering over responsibility: ‘I’ve done everything I can God. I don’t give them too much sugar [for this, their mother loves me], I’ve hidden all the sharp and heavy objects, I watch them every moment I can; but those cars are their favourite things. Don’t let them trip over one or swallow a small part, please. I will go back to church and only ever say or think good things about people…’ I’m not even sure he’s listening these days. I broke so many of his rules, I excommunicated myself in the end.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. I am supposed to be working overseas for culture and adventure (and because between the parties, the boys, the job and the crash diets I never got round to working out what else I would do when I left university). Yet, while it’s fair to say I’m getting some of each, I have spent a lot of my time so far worrying, as usual.

I stand up and am washing my hands when the pounding starts. Within seconds, hot poison is coursing around my system. I grip the sink to steady myself and swallow some bile. This has been happening all week and I know what’s causing it: shame. Because a few nights ago, something so bad happened that all my attempts at keeping the boys safe will soon be futile. The whole family and I are going to be murdered in our beds and it is all my fault.

I’d had a great night out in Zurich – drinking cider in the British pub and meeting lots and lots of boys. Alcohol did what it always does: made everything feel safe and enjoyable, made all my worries seem amusing and turned me into an absolute delight. I was walking home through the fields, laughing to myself at things that had been said and leaving my friends in the UK charming (and expensive) voicemails about how much I loved them and how marvellous everything was. I was still in this happy, cider bubble when I realised I wasn’t alone.

‘Gruezi’ I said in my best Swiss German to the men outside the barn. They approached, looking at me like I was a navy cat they wanted to get a closer at. One of them had eyes like dirty coins and the other was a giant baby with a bald head, missing teeth and a permanent look of fascination. They both had cans of beer. I think I must have smiled at them (fuck knows why). I don’t know who said ‘how are you?’ first, but we had a conversation – some of which I understood, much of which I didn’t. Quite quickly, I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to piss them off. Nonetheless, when they offered me a beer and invited me into the barn, I said ‘no thank you’ (even I wasn’t that stupid), explained that I had to sleep because I had bircher muesli to prepare in the morning, said goodbye and tried to walk away... But something was wrong. Coin Eyes had my arm and I remained rooted to the spot. The next part is a blur. I know I fought and shouted ‘no’ and ‘help’ in English, Swiss German and high German. I know Baby Head watched our tug of war like an infant watching tennis for the first time.

In the end I was saved by the giant baby. He said something I didn’t understand to the other one, who then (without letting go of my arm) told me in a mixture of German and English that they were going to walk me home now. I said thank you for the kind offer, but that I was fine. They still came. After fighting for air when Coin Eyes kissed me goodbye, I managed to leave them at the corner, but they watched me walk into the apartment block. I went up the stairs, through the unlocked door and into the bathroom, where I sat on the floor for the next hour, thinking about the implications of what I had just done.

I brought danger to the door. Because I am a reckless, horrid, little English tart. I got away but now they know where I live, with the children. I confessed the next morning and Maria was kind to me; but her assurances that she wasn’t angry, she was just glad I got away OK, that we were safe in the flat and she’d talk to some of the neighbours, just made me feel worse. And now it’s not just the toys I have to check – it’s the locks, it’s the surrounding fields, it’s every noise and every shadow. I should have gone into the barn with them. I should have let them do whatever they wanted; even if it meant I ended up dead. It was selfish of me to resist and bring them here because now we’re all a target...

Luca calls me again, bringing me back to the present. I dry my hands, shake the thoughts out of my head and go to find him.

I don’t want the world
And all its risks, all I need
Is one safe corner

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