Running Away

National 5 folio piece

Where have you gone? I am adrift without you.

He deserted me on that harsh morning. The strident wind had retired the morning dew. A destitute officer led the futile search for my son. Looking in the mirror I am older. New wrinkles appear daily.

Before that morning, his smirk as I entered his room always bemused me in a way. His packed bags, for school and athletics, were patiently waiting. He was always keen to start his day at the track. And then he was gone, why? I don’t know. That morning I woke up and his room was tidy, bags packed, bed made, curtains drawn. My son just vanished, like writing in the sand.

Time passed, dragging across the calendar like an indecisive finger.

A letter lands with a thud. It echoes through the flat. I swing my head towards it. A simple, brown envelope. I feel hastily for the folded letter inside. Taking it out, I read.

Hello mother.

My heart palpitates; I cannot believe it. After all this anguish, he sends me a letter. I unfold it and start reading, scanning the lines.

I don't know where to start. This was all such a mess. Too much to write in one note. There were too many little dominoes that add up to one big, crushing snowball. An inescapable force that you were ignorant enough to dismiss. I really shouldn't have, but I let it get to me. I let it take over my thoughts — but maybe that’s just called being human?

My heart drops. I am a caring mother; how can he call me ignorant? Everything was okay. We were both doing fine together Robert and I, but as a single mother, I struggled. I always seemed in the wrong but I tried my best to support him. All I want is for him to come home.

I can’t take the pressure any more — I cannot. I hope you understand, but I know you won’t. You were overwhelming and I was drowning in athleticism. I couldn't stop for fear of crushing your dreams. I realised how much you had put into it and I realised there was no going back. I couldn't keep up.

I never put that much pressure on him. I was being supportive. Besides many other children have it worse, so why must he make such a fuss? It wasn't overwhelming. I was just helping, giving him tips on technique. I just wanted him to do his best and if he wanted to stop he could've said, but I swore he loved every minute of it. I pore over the next paragraph.

Even when I pushed my hardest you still wanted more from me. I couldn’t give anymore. Whether at the track or at school you berated me for the tiniest mistakes. I almost got all A’s but it was always that one B you focused on. I got silver in a championship but you always questioned, “Why couldn't you come first?”

I am always giving praise to him. I was just disappointed he was never the best. To me he was of course, but there was always someone just above him. I read on — anxious.

My dedication to all of this left me almost friendless. All of those smiles and smirks were for you, not for me. I have been living my life for other people, not for myself and I am sick of it. After all this altruism, I think I deserve to indulge in selfishness one last time.

Maybe there is some truth to this. Perhaps I have been too overbearing. I was just helping, giving constructive criticism.

It breaks my heart to think he was never smiling because he was enjoying himself; every time we met was a lie to keep me happy. Confused by his words on that final line, my wet eyes continue reading.

This time last year I made an ultimatum to myself to get out of this in the next 12 months or give up. Guess what didn't change?

I hated everything. I hate it all. I wish I could stop. But you will not let me. Is it bad I would rather give up, than keep moving on? You never supported me. Even when I begged you to help me — you didn’t. I showed you the pain upon my face but that wasn't good enough. The more I tried to seek help the more you shrugged it off as a phase. I tried to love you, but I just couldn't forgive. You saw I was hurt but you were never convinced. What kind of mother would do that? I had so many reasons but none of them good enough for you. I hope you are proud of yourself.

My stomach squeezes up on itself, ready to make me throw up if I let it. I am guilty. I was certain that he was yearning for attention. I hate myself and his spiteful words feel like nails in my coffin, sealing my fate.

Beginning to bawl, his ultimatum hits me like a brick wall. What does he mean by give up? Surely he does not mean… No he can't be. Clearly not — I continue this lament.

But it’s too late. I've made up my mind. Nothing can change it now. I cannot face you. Do you think I would've gone this far if I didn't know what I was doing. You say “Don't do anything stupid”, but this is the most rational thing I can think of.

I am sorry.

My knees buckle. I howl and bawl and wail. I cannot fathom it. My baby is gone. I am no longer a mother. I am nothing.

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