It is impossible to concentrate. When you know your child is on the operating table, anaesthetised, tube down her throat, and soon to have seven teeth hacked and yanked from her mouth, how can you? You look at your watch again. Wonder which tooth he’s up to, the oral surgeon who casually told you in his rooms about the nerve that runs close to the extraction site, the one that controls taste and sensation in the lips.
You feel guilty that you didn’t take her to the hospital yourself. Even though her father was happy to take time off and she was happy either way. You time-travel to two hours ago and watch them drive off, waving. Feel the gut-wrench of staying behind.
Everything is ready for when they return. You’ve filled the fridge with mush. You’ve googled mushroom soup recipes and watched a how-to video. You’ve diced the ingredients and cooked dinner for yourself and the hollow legged man-child. You’ve got the ice pack cooling in the freezer.
This could be a time when you could catch up on some writing. You could finish the short story that keeps writing itself in your brain while you’re in the shower. Or do the reader’s report – you’ve worked out how you’ll tackle it. But you click on facebook because you can’t concentrate and you want to feel connected to the outside world.
You look at your watch and wonder how she’s coming out of the anaesthetic. You hope she doesn’t suffer the nausea you always do after surgery. You try to imagine vomiting with a mouth full of sutures and bloodclots. Then you stop trying to imagine.
You go for a walk. It might help relax the knot in your stomach. The dog is very happy. Your black jumper soaks up the sun and you become distracted by other dogs, the scent of freesia and a low flying plane. You think of the man-child flying off to Frankfurt on the weekend. Think of him sitting up in the sky, think of him negotiating airports on his own.
Then, mercifully, you’re distracted again. You see her sitting on the side of the grassy slope of the park. Her dog wanders down and greets yours. The temperature is around twenty degrees and you almost feel uncomfortable in a skivvy. At the back of your mind you wonder why she is wearing a beanie. You don’t know her well. She’s a familiar face from your children’s old primary school community. You’ve seen her walking her dog. She’s never appeared particularly friendly or keen to chat with you. As you walk past the grassy verge you give a half-wave and call out, ‘How you going?’
You don’t mean it. You think of the session on humbug at the Melbourne Writers Festival. What you’ve called out to this woman – and you know Robert Dessaix would agree – is humbug. Something of little or no value. She gives you a nod. You keep walking and wonder if she works, why she’s out with her dog, sitting in the sun. You’ve only ever seen her out walking on weekends. There’s a little bit of you that likes that she can sit out on that slope and soak up the sun and the fresh air and the scenery.
You keep on with your walk and return to the operating theatre a couple of times. It’s such a beautiful day you walk past your house and keep going. You meet a couple of other dog walkers and by the time you turn back the grassy verge is empty. You take the path that will eventually meander along the creek, where you know the sun will be glistening off the water. When you get there, she is heading towards you. The dogs smell each other’s backsides and the two of you stand and watch them. She talks first, says her dog is timid but likes smaller dogs. You notice she has no eyebrows, that the beanie sits close to her head, that there are no strands of hair escaping from it. She asks your dog’s name and you tell her all about how your cat and the dog get up to mischief together, how the dog takes herself to ‘time-out’ when she thinks she’s been naughty. She tells you about her two cats, the big blue one and the small tortie. You tell her that you got your cat from Queensland and that his breed is meant to be good for people with allergies. You can’t remember the name of the breed because your over fifty post-operative brain refuses to spit out the information, but you don’t feel silly because she makes you feel normal.
You walk home.
With a changed perspective.