THE INVISIBLE CHILDREN
EVERYTHING ENDS, one only has to wait and the moment arrives. It’s not when one expects it to be. The lights go out and the shadows grow. It's sudden. The body shrinks a little, the fists clenched, ready for a fight, any fight. There are monsters.
Surely they exist and are there, in the closet, hidden, waiting for the eyes to be closed. The monsters. And then there is that moment. Between wanting to be eyes wide open, vigilant, and knowing that sleep is a revenge, powerful. Fighting against the possibility of dreaming, of losing the perspective of reality, of controlling the unknown closet’s door. Battling, opening the eyes often, not feeling the pillow already so warm. There are those who struggle with the night in various ways. M. manages to resume the dreams of the previous night, needs to focus and look for concrete images that are still inside, a film kept in the brain, ready to be repeated, waiting. Whenever M. wants to. And M. often wants that dream where the colours turn into cotton houses and there are smiling people, hugs, and a kind of slide that teases the spirit, a flying slide. It's a good dream, no one will say otherwise, but M. does not intend to talk about it. Rather, if M. is not dreaming of flying beyond the rainbow, living in children’s books, those which are already known by heart, like a chant. It's safe. The story remains, there are no surprises, the illustrations may seem less fascinating over time, but there are some funny drawings: the rabbit in a hat, the girl who likes flowers, the lady hugging a child, the car without a wheel that wants to be fast.
In bed, M. stays put, crosses both arms, and becomes a hug that belongs to no one else, does not need anything else, that warmth has to arrive and, thus, expects the body to grow and do justice to the size of that self-inflicted tenderness. It will certainly be greater, always greater. The body grows, keeps true to the idea of smallness in the brain, does not want to be any other thing in good times, and wants to be very big in unhappy hours. Growing or not, depending on good and evil, M. tries not to think about it. Neither wants to consider the body, nor the strange times when nothing seems to be right and only that is incomprehensible. M. knows how to avoid those ways. The dream. M. focuses on the dream and sees the shadows closing up, ceasing to exist, all behind the eyelids, in silence.
Fear does not enter M.’s head, it does not turn into a ghost, it does not chase M. through the nights. For a long time M. has ceased to be afraid, it feels that way, stubborn about losing that fear, a bet made and which is important to win. And the fear, what is it for? M. classifies fear through the beating of the hearts that are lodged in the throat, sometimes it is a rush of bombardments that cause a roaring sound, impossible to control, the heart screaming inside the chest, rising all the way up the throat. By the sweat and the smell left in the clothes, fear is a residue that is damaged and glued, it captures and dominates everything. M. learned that counting, focusing on numbers – and the higher the numbers, the better – makes fear slow down its trigger, and nothing gets blurred. The monsters surrender to the cunning chant of the numbers.
There were days when fear was blinding. M. would be unable to see, just as in a dream, M. wanted to be able to see, but there was only a yarn of white lights accompanied by that sweat, and, it’s important to say, the numbers faster and faster, six, seven, eight, nine... to thus fight against what one can guess and it is fatally bad. As it is now with the threat of the dream that is both wanted and unwanted, maybe just for a moment. M. could just give in. But that’s not an option.
M. feels like going to the bathroom and knows that it will happen, even if nothing happens, will is an obsession, M. feels a pressure, has to go, can only think about it, and the dream loses its strength. Opens the eyes, gets up in silence, needs to make an extra effort to reach the ground. The feet are frozen, an aggression, and M. feels that cold with the realisation that the tiled floor could have a rug, and does not. M. does not know the house well yet, the floor is cold, the bed too big, the ceiling looks too low, the lights weak. M. has been there for four days. In M.’s head, M. is not there, has not yet made the decision to accept that, once again, has moved as someone moving to a new country. M. needs more time and now it is imperative to go to the bathroom.
M. knows that it is a choice to be or not to be, what is not a choice is what the body asks, that demand is definitive, it is not controllable, and M. understands that the self, the self inside the head, with whom there is an almost permanent talk, does not dominate the wrapping, which is the body saying things. And the body wants to sit on the toilet. M. goes out the door, the bedroom is a planet that can be abandoned, M. has a suit that is supportive, holds enough oxygen, M. floats throughout the corridor, with an astronaut helmet on, and can only take note of the orchestra of hearts in the throat and the panting melody of the breathing. M. starts counting again, one, two, three... and the breathing normalises. M. does not know if the corridor will be a metre long or ten, it is infinite, and the bathroom door is a goal that will not be reached. The body is no longer M.’s. The legs are pressed against each other. The stratosphere will have to be crossed, the possibility of breathing declined, an effort not to fear the clash, and, finally, sliding to the destination, fulfilling the mission. The heart slowing down. M. imagines that the urine runs down the legs and speeds to arrive and once the feet are on the white floor tiles, tiles which cannot be discerned accurately, M. gives up and is no longer an astronaut.
M. gropes a wall on the left, something which is perceived to be an obstacle, then swerves, now in a hurry, hears a strange noise. M. peeks, a look through the vastness of the dark, toward the stairs. The television light makes drawings on the wall, shadows that come and go, there is no sound; the television took control of the room, appropriated the house and has its own will. Monsters. M. does not know who might be in the living-room, the hours slip, the thoughts frolic around and M. is certain that questions can be accumulated simultaneously. M. thinks of several things at the same time. M. will always think this way, several clues with different ideas, multiple subjects. M. will not say it, for it will be another reason that justifies that look of perplexity, as is known, of inability to understand, a very specific way of looking that only happens to adults. What they do not understand causes strangeness, adults do not have a way of imagining things.
M. knows that the dinner was left on the plate and was able to see a book with black and white drawings, the only book that existed in that place where four days have gone by. M. looked at the book for a while; does not know for how long. They were thick-line drawings, almost offensive, a suggestion of a dog, of a house. Later, M. realised that it was a children's book that is only meant to please adults. A book with another time and time is relative. The books M. left behind, with strange rabbits and cars without wheels, are better. M. is sure of that. M. does not believe adults know of the existence of such books. On the first day, they didn’t ask a lot of questions, they just showed the places where things are: here are the bath towels; here you have the cutlery, the glasses, the plates; you can see here in the pantry the cereals and cookies; the fridge always has milk on the door shelf, pay attention, when something ends, you have to put it in the bin, there’s the bin, we recycle. The batteries go here in this box. Do not worry, we take the bin out. When you're more comfortable around here, we'll teach you where the recycling bin is, and when you grow up you can go there without the company of one of us, okay, that's better. Do you understand? The woman faced the kitchen in its amplitude and sighed
I do not know why we're saying all this, M.’s not old enough to know anything about this.
M. understands, it is not a question of age, the mental dexterity is there, experience as well, to understand what glasses, and forks, garbage, and other things are. M. tries to focus, eyes open, turns to see the pantry, to identify the waste, to peer the silver fridge. That means M. is there, present, taking note of everything, as it is due, in spite of the young age. In fact, if M. relies in sincerity, after two different houses, different rules books, typologies of bizarre families, dirty wallpapers or worn carpets, M. realises that inside the head the world is actually quite simple. If M. does everything as expected, if the silence remains, nothing will happen. In the nothing, inside the nothing, there is the chance to have a mother. A father. They are always uncles or, as is the case, they have nicknames, diminutives of the names that should be used in other places. In four days M. knows the rules; not much more.
Finally, M. enters the bathroom and sits on the toilet. In the dark. With the hands, M. feels the lid, manages to sit, is aware of the care that the body would rather ignore, but it is crucial, care in the way that movements are made always mean less noise, and M. is in favour of silence, something that is known to contribute to the well-being. There is a smell that M. does not identify, feels the smell as invasive and unpleasant, does not identify it; M. is sure the underwear is not dirty. Closes the eyes. The body asks to push and M. pushes. Suddenly, the pounding heart, the heart screaming inside the chest, the head demanding hurry, the body not ruching, M. acknowledges the steps on the stairs.
Wouldn’t you rather turn on the light?
M. looks at the floor. Light is an aggressive floodlight that exposes, that reveals, and it is a white invasion, a white light that hurts. The adult insists on the question, there is a dissonant note in the voice, and M. perceives the tiredness, the impatience. The probability of not finding understanding, of there being any dramatic scene from there. An inconvenience. M. should not have gotten out of bed. Giving up being an astronaut would have been better. In order to respond to the adult who, of course, faces the situation with a serious expression, waiting for a response, it would be necessary to find the words, and the words are not mandatory, they do not impose themselves inside the head, ready to be expelled, the words are unlikely, they do not live inside M. The light illuminates the tiles that have now got their real shape and the defined colours, they are blue and white. M. can see the tips of the brown shoes. They are men’s shoes, and men are more frightening. M. does not want to think about being frightened. One, two, three... Where was M.? Should have stayed in bed, inside the dream. M. listens to the door of the bathroom opening even more, the volume of the man weighing against the door, and then a step back, and the door wide open, looking at the black hole of the corridor where one can only breathe if there a special helmet, connected with tubes and lights to a protective holder.
Don’t forget to flush the toilet and put the seat down. Sleep tight.
Gestures become slower. M. recalls being another age, someone standing in the bathroom waiting for it to end, someone picking up the toilet paper, M.’s body stretched ahead, there was that feeling of the rugged paper against the skin, and the skin would become clean. M. does not remember much else, or prefers not to remember. It's the same thing. No. M. needs to want to remember some things, it's a personal choice. The first time, for example.
Does not want to.
M. flushes the toilet, lowers the blue seat, unwillingly washes the hands, the water is cold, just wets the fingers, feels the water lightly. M. learned the hard way that handwashing is important. The cut remained on the face for more than a week. M. does not look in the mirror, does not need to, knowing by heart the features of the face, the portable sadness that lives in the eyes, and still sees the cut, a thin scar on the right cheek. M. faces the corridor that is no longer a galaxy, the space decorated by stars and things that are not easily decipherable, the corridor is now a red tongue of floor that leads to the bedroom. Suddenly. The body freezes and M. goes back to turn off the light. And whispers inside, and only inside
And turn off the light.
The man forgot to say.
There are things that all adults do, perhaps because they have swallowed the same sentences, families of words that together make sentences that are repeated exclusively by adults. They are more predictable than they like to think. It is all a matter of observation, and M. is experienced in this chapter: withholding what is seen and heard.
Understanding patterns and what is recurrent. The woman in this house, for example, punctuates the sentences with the same expression: in fact. In fact, she says, unable to realise that facts, like almost everything, or even everything, are an ephemeral construction. Adults repeat themselves, similar equipment, the same ideas, sense of order, impatience and then the rest. Therefore, like as in the first time, nothing is a surprise, because M. knows what is going to happen, has had an empirical access to the life script of the people around. M. knows things that are unpronounceable, things that build enough warnings. M. knows things and that does not carry any reward. After all, who wants a small child with an illness, or knowing things that can diminish the authority of who is grown up?
A congenital heart problem, the doctor said one day, M. had heard well. There was a representation of the skeleton on the wall, and the bones were drawn in very thin lines, too thin, in black and white, and then in red, a strange and infinite web of muscles, a strange construction, M. thought, and the skeleton, sympathetic, did not hold a heart, it was free, quite free of it. M. has an angry heart, it seems, and that heart, despite the numbers, lives in the terror of having too many questions needing words that are yet unknown. Again the words. The heart that beats, M. places the gentle hand on the chest and knows that it is there, still lives there, and that it has a defect.
M. has always thought that the heart would not survive so much loneliness, because the truth is that a child needs a family, or maybe that is an exaggeration, a child needs a mother. A mother who can understand that corridors are the space and dreams have slides and that sometimes the vertigo of going down the slide is hypnotising, it has the ability of changing the lives of those who believe. The ruined, unworthy heart, unable to do what every other heart does, is more of a fatality to the condition that gives M. the label: different. And M. knows of that difference. Despite that, the social worker in the House had explained that luck was on M.’s side, in a card game luck was there and that meant a family. Despite the crumbled heart, an instrument with no capabilities to be more.
A family is a man and a woman. Or two men, or two women. With more children or not. Sometimes with other people. A family is always an intricate portrait, full of details that are not simple to retain: the lady's aunt is also her grandmother's cousin, because she is a third-degree aunt. Things that make sense to adults in their eagerness to explain the world. There is no simple explanation for what a family is, and to acquire it in writing, through someone’s order, a decision to be a mother or father, and therefore making one an uncle or grandmother, does not mean to understand what kind of love tissue will be woven and how to weave it, and how one should dress that love that is intended to last forever. An unnatural family, M. had heard. It was an unhappy expression and, at the same time, M. understood that the unnatural meant only that love was not spontaneous and mandatory, it was not born from the body, from growing within.