Parent

Working in other people’s houses can be odd. I’ve worked in home offices with loaded firearms in easy reach. With bullets in the desk drawer. With a toddler repeatedly coming in to sit on my lap and color the invoices. With teens standing around in underpants to wait for whatever they’ve microwaved to finish cooking. The family forgets you’re there. Sometimes they bring you food, or a drink, or come in to chat, but mostly they function as though you’re next door. Familiar and at a remove.

As the bookkeeper, I know everything about them. Numbers are clarity. And if I work in their houses, I know how they speak to their children, how the house hums when they are there and when they are absent. For the most part, this is absolutely fine. Tuesday afternoon, two teenagers spent ten minutes yelling at each other while I finished the filing and started the system backup. A family issue, I thought.

And then he told her it wasn’t OK that she’d tried to kill herself in his house. And she said it wasn’t OK to talk to her like that. And he said she couldn’t be selfish anymore, that she had a child now. And she said nobody asked her why she’d done it, and growing up without anybody loving you was totally fucked up and had left her without coping skills. And they shouted. And talked. And shouted.

Two children. 16 and 19. Two children without jobs, who don’t go to school. Two children who’d forgotten I was 12 meters away.

Tell me again how lucky we are in this country. Tell me how this is a country of opportunity. How we show compassion and tend to the needy. Tell me how we care for one another.

They’re children. And whatever future they can imagine for themselves, they cannot seem to step toward it. And who’s driving this fucking thing anyway? What are you going to do with your life? What’s your plan for when you’re all grown up?

Where you headed, champ?

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize pain in other people because we’re so consumed with our own. I’ve spent the rest of the week wondering if I should have intervened. And what would that have looked like? They said hard things, but they weren’t mean things. He stayed seated. She stood by the window.

Children.

It didn’t feel that way when I was 16 or 19. I was already so old. Weary and disillusioned.

I wish, sometimes, that I were that way now. That I had something a little thicker between my organs and the elements. I wish I could let go of all these motherless children. Fuck it, man. We’re all struggling. We’re all trying our best to get by. Using our resources as well as we’re able.

Somebody should hug those fucking kids. It can’t be me. But somebody should. Somebody loves us all. I believe that. It’s the truest line of poetry ever written.

Somebody should tell us. Somebody should tell us and show us and love us. All the time.

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