He would squeeze my finger with such eerie intent, again and again. Knowing he was never meant to stay but hanging on as long as he could, giving us time to fix him onto our souls. Reflex? I'm choosing not to buy it. Ben still doesn't grip like that. Compared to his old-soul brother, Ben is shiny new, a face-value boy. A puppy among babies, unabashedly peeved or curious or hungry or zonked.
Everything Ben has done is one more thing that Liam will never do. He breastfeeds, moves from incubator to crib, has the last remaining tube taken away until he is just mine, fleshy and pink. Then he will walk, talk, run, gaining momentum while his brother remains a still-life, never able to move beyond what he was.
I linger out here longer than I should, at night. Sometimes seeking Liam in pictures or words, summoning him, but mostly wishing I could just go to bed, escape from such vivid loss. Wishing it would leave me alone, just for a while. The false hope of rosy cheeks. His bare rump in my hand, growing cold.
I’ve heard it said of other mamas who have lost babies: Every conversation steers itself towards the baby. It’s getting… tiresome. She really needs to move on. It’s not healthy. Perhaps you’re thinking that right now with the best of intentions. If you are, I’ve got no defense nor offense. It is what it is. It follows me everywhere, this dark cloud, the resting state, the default. I don't choose to wallow. It is overcome with sheer effort, like swimming against a channel tide. I dance and sing and zerbert, roll in the grass and hide-and-seek and all-fall-down. I give them both the gift of innocence as well as I might. I come here to skim off the crud that floats to the top.
I’d probably say the same thing, reading me. I’d be sympathetic but a little drained, wanting her to move on not only for her own sake but for mine as well. I don’t want to be a melancholy mother. I don’t want Ben to catch me looking at him longingly as though he’s not enough. Or staring into space, stuck on continuous replay. For him, and for Evan, there should be no bitter. Only sweet.
But free of audience the tears find me again, on this day two months since they were born, because it all just went so wrong.