There's a child that never leaves me. A real child, not some figment of my imagination like an invisible friend or ghostly inner child. A REAL female child with a freckled face, sea-coloured eyes, and sun-kissed hair. She follows me everywhere: into shops, libraries, cafés and restaurants, where she skips behind or sits beside me. People say she must take after me, but she's not mine I say.
remember when she appeared and I don't know where she came from. I've
tried countless times to shoo her away, but wherever we are she lies
on the floor and screams. I ignore her and walk away; she's not with
me I say, but she picks herself up and runs to catch me up, dragging
an unattractive dolly with a grotesque head in a nylon dress with
does she cling to me? I'm not her mother! At least I don't think I
am, but sometimes I wonder... Is it possible I could have had a child
and forgotten all about her? Can you blank pregnancy and the
complications of labour? Erase a baby's milestones? Their first word
and tottering step?
time, I dismiss these thoughts. NOT BLOODY LIKELY!
she's not mine, then WHOSE IS SHE?
people can obviously see her so I'm not going mad. They often comment
on her healthy chubby glow, so she's well looked after. I don't see
her when I'm in my own home, so where does she go I wonder? I don't
recall a sleepy head in my lap or dent next to me on the sofa. But
then my internal and external lives are kept separate. I assume
different roles at different times in different spaces.
be Mother to a daughter and not know it?
weekends, she tries to sneak her tiny hand into mine, but I don't let
her. People might think I'm abducting her! And I'm sure they would
believe her lie over my cry that I'M NOT HER MOTHER!
if she follows me to the seaside, she begs for an ice cream or a red
balloon. I ignore her pleads and incessant tugs on my sweater. I was
taught to never speak to strangers, so why does this child insist on
thought about reporting her to the police, but the last time I tried,
she told the community officer she wasn't lost or missing. And with
her apple cheeks and naughty grin, he was bowled over.
isn't her own mother searching for her? Doesn't she want to know
where her baby girl goes at odd hours? When she tucks her tight into
bed at night does she ask her? Does she sing her lullabies and stroke
last to know what a child needs, but I imagine comfort and security.
A bubble bath, a mug of milky cocoa and a bedtime story. Has it
changed since I was a girl in a cotton nightie?
does this child need? What does she want from me?
can I possibly give that her own mother, whoever she may be, can't
she always be with me? Trailing behind, walking beside, or skipping
in front of me?
child that says she's not lost - SHE'S WITH ME!
*A tale inspired by 20
Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo