It happened so fast, and so slowly at the same time…
Seven o’clock in the evening, and he’s fresh from the bath, snug in his Minion pyjamas, and smelling delicious. I grab him and give him a squeeze. He’s partial to aggressive hugs, because it feels like wrestling, and he loves wrestling.
He’s five (“but it’s almost my birthday,” he tells me daily), and he’s clean, and warm, and happy, and just about ready to cuddle up on the couch for a cartoon and a snack before bed, but first he has to show me something. He always has to show me something.
“Watch me, mommy! Watch me, I’ve been practicing!”
I give him a nod of encouragement, and off he goes.
And he spins. He’s a human cyclone. I’ve never seen anything spin so quickly. He’s a Beyblade come to life.
“Wow,” I exclaim, unintentionally encouraging him to continue, and before I can stop him, he launches into his final, glorious spin — the spin to end all spins. It starts with a flying leap; he’s airborne, and it’s beautiful.
But he’s too dizzy. He’s not going to land it, he can’t, he’s coming in too hard, too fast, and much too close to the toy box.
I see it happen in slow motion. I’m on my feet, arms outstretched before I even hear the “CRACK” of his orbital bone hitting the pointed edge of the furniture. I cry out before he does, I grab him before he hits the ground, and push his face into my chest, certain that the pressure of my heart, my hand on the back of his head is the only thing keeping his eye in its socket. I run down the stairs. I’m shouting as if the house is on fire. As if we’re both on fire.
“ICE PACKS! GET SOME ICE PACKS! OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD,” I yell, racing through the house toward the kitchen, toward my husband. When did my house get so big? Why are there so many stairs? Have I been running for hours? I’VE BEEN RUNNING FOR HOURS!
“HIS EYE! IT’S HIS EYE, OH GOD, I CAN’T LOOK,” I shout, frantically pressing my sobbing child into his daddy’s arms, before turning my back on him, shoving my fist in my mouth and bearing down on an anguished scream. I stare at my chest, looking for gore but find nothing, save a few boogers, and some tear splotches — all of which might be my own.
My husband’s calm voice comes to me, breaking through the din of my own spiralling thoughts — thoughts that march right past Band-Aids and straight to white canes, helpful golden retrievers and eye patches. “He’ll never be a pilot,” I sob, inwardly, hiccupping outwardly.
“It’s OK, buddy. There’s just a little blood,” my husband says. “Here, you hold the ice pack I’ll go get a cloth. It’s going to be fine, dude, but it was close. You just about lost an eye,” he adds, setting his son on the couch with his blankie clutched in one hand, ice pack in the other.
Suddenly I realize I’m the only one still breathing hard. I’m the only one still crying. I go to my son and hug him, gently. He hates it.
“Stop it, mommy, I can’t see the TV,” he says over my head, more concerned with what he’s missing on Alvin and the Chipmunks than the fact that two minutes ago, in my imagination, his whole life changed as I clutched him against my chest.
I leave the room to collect myself. My husband passes me in the hall, walking casually, probably thinking about trucks, or football or deadlifts, unaware of the tragedy that’s just played out in my mind.
Unaware that while my son will go to sleep this night with a bit of a bruise, and tiny cut that probably won’t even scar, I’ll be awake imagining how bad it might have been. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and cut up pool noodles and glue them to the furniture edges. It’ll be ugly, dammit, but it’ll be safe.
And spinning? Spinning will be banned.
Some people are calm in a crisis. I am not one of those people.