“Mommy forgot the car key,” I said. “Silly Mommy!”
Even I had to admit my voice sounded deranged.
I wheeled us right, then left, then left again. We were moving at a wild speed because despair was following close behind. I raced it back to our street with the row of brownstones, their gracious stairs.
I had forgotten about the stairs.
In front of our building, I stood paralyzed.
I wasn’t strong enough to maneuver a baby in a stroller up 10 steps. And if I took him out of the stroller, the risk was high that he would lose his mind. He would turn into a writhing, wriggling, shrieking force of nature, and we would have no chance of making it to the doctor’s office on time. Without the car key, on the other hand, we were obviously going nowhere.
I could feel the competence and goodness leaking out of me. In its place was the conviction, cold and rattling, that I was not up to this.
Unless — unless I went inside without him. Left him on the street, just for a minute. Less than a minute, even. I’d be back in 30 seconds, 45 tops. What were the odds that someone would nab a child in the time I’d be gone?
As these thoughts passed through my mind, a nightmare vision came to me, complete and instantaneous. How I would head up the stairs, think better of it and turn back — only to find him gone. My child, no longer here, but back in California, where I was desperate for us to be. I saw him transported by my homesickness through space and time. Me here, him there — and how would I reach him?
This grotesque product of my imagination was so clear that it brought bile up my throat. But when my body settled, something deep inside me settled, too.