I can’t quite convey the feeling of guilty terror (or terrible guilt) I felt the other day when, in a fit of agitated impatience, I zipped up Liam’s shorts in the bathroom a little too quickly. The zipper only made it about half way up its metal-pronged path when it snagged on something and Liam’s mouth dropped open in silent, agonized shock. You know there’s real discomfort involved when there’s a delay in the scream coming out of a kid’s mouth. It’s not a whiny, tired or frustrated cry. It’s the real thing.
I immediately realized what I’d done and went into full lockdown crisis mode. I couldn’t bear to imagine the damage I might have inflicted so I retreated into an analysis-only zone, telling him calmly that I wanted to check for blood (he was a bleeder).
As he continued his wall-trembling wail I ran across the yard to get some ice (I probably just wanted an excuse to leave the scene before he saw how pale I’d become). When I got to the kitchen, Asan, Khalida and the Bungelow Boys were eating lunch. They all heard Liam’s screams and Asan asked if there was anything he could do to help. I shook my head without speaking, my mouth puckered awkwardly like a butcher who’d accidentally cut off his assistant’s leg and didn’t want his customers to know about it. Then I ran back across the lawn to apply some cold pressure (something, anything!) to the wound. I wrapped the ice in a washcloth and showed Liam what to do with it. Then I glanced at the zipper damage again and didn’t see anything too obvious (nothing was clearly missing, for example), though the truth is I only gave him the once-over with eyes half-closed.
Eventually Liam calmed and went to bed. Within about twenty minutes he was more excited about his washcloth of ice than the state of his groin (ah, the naivety of youth). Then of course Jules wanted his own washcloth of ice and naptime sort of spiraled into a more typical chaos.
About an hour passed before I was ready to admit what I’d done to our housemates.
“Frank or beans?” one of the Bungelow boys asked when I’d confessed to the crime.
“Frank,” I replied somberly.
“Eeyooh,” he winced, his entire body contracting.