I have been trying to write another blog for three months. I had developed a concept, a style: it was to be composed of honest, ultimately empowering essays, about raising a child with special needs, from a Black feminist perspective. I was to uncover something, a lesson in each, that was universal. It was to surpass venting, complaining, bemoaning. But, these past months, I have not been able to write in that way. My life has felt very particular, a thing in which I could not find universalities, or lessons, only the struggle to reach the next day.
I have been preparing readings for a class on Black feminism and womanism, remembering the joy and discovery of my first forays into this field, when I first found all of these voices saying the things I did not yet know that I wanted to say. An important method in our tradition is creative writing, the personal, but also political essay, meandering and contemplative, posing more questions than solutions, moving quietly through the complexity of Black women’s lives, naming the details, naming the names we are called by, that we call ourselves, refusing some and draping ourselves in others. Black, single? mother. Warrior mama of a child with disability. Scholar, intellectual. Adjunct lecturer. Barely employed. Highly educated, overeducated, even. “Knowing more than what is good for one.” (Walker, Womanist) Working class, according to income. Middle class, according to my profession and four degrees. A not unwifed wife, in that long, liminal space of Deciding. An artist, who cannot remember the last time she made art. Who tries to write poems and stories, and makes grocery lists, to-do lists instead.
It all runs together. Child care. Who will care for a child, who wears his intestine like a kiss on his stomach, covered with a plastic bag? Who needs to be watched just a bit closer, not quite yet ready to join the rush of sturdy, tumbling toddler limbs? “We are not trained for that,” they tell me. “We cannot serve his needs.” I cross a name off the list, call the next number. Numbers rush through my head, causing migraines. The numbers have lives. They dance and sing at me, Sesame Street style. One week: Four classes to prepare for. Two syllabi to write. Seventeen readings to scan. Six books to read. One article to complete and submit. One job talk to write and rehearse. I think I can do it. I have found one school, in the entire city, that embraces my child, that does not shudder at the medical device that he needs to live. I think I can do it, then…Five days of recurring fever, where he cannot attend school. Sixth day now, of him not eating. Of me not sleeping as he writhes and whimpers and clings to me through the night. Classes start in two days. Three doctor appointments, zero answers. The only thing that distracts him from his pain is television. I tire of educational PBS shows. We go to the stuff of my childhood, Disney movies. I watch princesses sing of their desires to be places other than here: the sea, the land, whole new worlds, paths not taken, of wanting more than their provincial towns. (Except the Black one, who wants a restaurant.) They are mostly White. They have silky hair and concave-flat stomachs and happy endings, yet I still identify with them, as they sing these songs. We sing along. At least until most of their desires manifest as handsome princes. I cannot sing along. I try to put my child down, work a little, read a little. He cries and reaches out. I can’t bring myself to deny him. We finish the films together. One syllabus, zero articles, zero job talks, two books completed.
I send him to his father, spend the day at the library. So many things to research, it all runs together. I cannot think clearly. Theories of posthumanity. Organic nutritional drinks for toddler with an iron deficiency, who has not eaten in a week. Babysitters in case he cannot attend school next week. Sitters are minimum, $15 an hour. I need nine hours, three days. Remedies for migraine. Primary source that talks about Harriet Tubman’s prophetic dreams. There is one copy of the book I need, not in the library where I am working, not in the library where I teach, but in one across town. Intersections of disability and science fiction studies? One to-do added to long list, about ten hours tomorrow to complete. How long can a toddler go without eating? New feeding therapy strategies. I left fruit too long in the bowl, and there are fruit flies in the kitchen. Diseases caused by fruit flies? Theories of Black girlhood. My girlhood was hard. I was laughed at often, closed out of circles, locked out of giggling heads and linked arms. But I miss it. It was easier than this. Natural traps for fruit flies.
I cannot see straight. I remember that my child has broken my glasses, I am wearing a pair that is five years old. How could my eyesight change this much in five years? How much will it change in five more? It was almost five years ago now, that tender, hopeful ceremony on the beach. I wonder how long it will be like this. Like survival is the best that I can do. Barely.
10:00pm. Visitors must leave the university library where I do my work. I am not done, but I go home. It is cold. One appointment next week, to relight the gas pilot. It is at the same time as an occupational therapy appointment. Add one to-do to list, reschedule appointment. The gas lighting, or the therapy? We have missed so many therapies lately, and he needs to work on eating. But the house is so cold. I will decide tomorrow.
11:00pm. I make a fruit fly trap, of apple cider vinegar and dish soap. It works, and I am shocked, that something I have done works as planned, that something has happened as I was told it would. I watch, fascinated, as the flies rush towards the sweetness, and get trapped in the bubbles at the rim.