Listen to this story read by the author.
Irene and I are on the verandah at her grandparents’ house, in the two chairs we’ve managed to clear of spiderwebs. The baby is awake in her arms.
‘Did you sleep?’ I say.
‘Yeah, a few hours.’
She offers no sign of agreement.
The sunset is orange, the sky scattered with clouds. We’re eating pumpkin and lentil soup out of bowls from home. I didn’t think it was necessary to bring them, the cupboards here are well stocked, but Irene insisted. She says they’re the perfect size. Also, she read in her online mother’s group that the glaze on old crockery often contains lead, so our modern bowls are safer. That’s one of the things about having a baby, you have to think things through. You’re no longer just eating from this bowl or that, you need to consider it all, how the bowl was made, how the food will affect Irene’s milk, then the baby’s digestion, her growth, etc. From production to final consequences. It’s an unsettling development.
Irene’s food is untouched. ‘Eat something,’ I say, and I put my bowl down and take the baby, who stares, seeing me or not, I’m never sure.
‘Do you think we made the right decision, coming here?’ I say.
Irene shrugs. She can’t answer, because how would she know what a right decision would look like? She shrugs again. ‘We’re here now.’
It’s just like her to say that.
We moved out here with a three-week-old baby so we could have time alone together, get to know one another, in our new formation of three. Now we have never been more alone, together.
Irene picks up her bowl, rests it on her lap, but still doesn’t eat.
‘I remembered something,’ she says. ‘My grandpa was missing two fingers. I’d forgotten. Isn’t that weird?’