His decline is gradual, but a mother knows. Giant teddy bear hugs become limp, and the child turns his head, leaving a parent’s kiss floundering fishlike in the air. Bedtimes lose the clingy desperation. He merely removes himself from your presence, slides under the covers and turns his head to the wall.
He’s nearly seven, they say.
Becoming a grownup Chappy, they fawn.
But he can’t hear green anymore, you say.
Oh my god no, they say, and move aside.
You anticipate a call from school, but not quite so soon.
I know, you cry, he cannot hear green.
You drop the phone.
He cannot feel love, you whisper to the wall.
Where did we go wrong?
You cuddle, tickle, kiss him, till rejection eats your flesh. You feed him his favourites till he vomits. You hit the piano keys in the tone of green, loud, wild, till the neighbours beat on your door. You pull him into the bush and swish him amongst the gums and grasses till his skin turns to the grey that he hears, not the verdant symphony feeding your soul.
Your husband signs the papers. You cannot.
The stigma stings as it paints a perfect black circle on your chest.
Tomorrow, it will seep from skin to clothes, no matter how many layers you don.
The black heart mark for all to see.
The queue is long. You stand in line, head down, holding the small cloud afloat, on which your child lies. He is still, ambivalent, but innocent. You risk a glance at the others, those marked as you. Nurses, carers, teachers. Too human, not enough. Like you. Their Loveless ones slip from the cosseting cloud, one by one. Your fear turns violent, but you hear a trumpet of joy from a Redeemed. You feel the blood-flow of relief gush through the Transgressors ahead.
Tip the cloud forward, with grace, they say. You watch your son slide into pale water. A streak of incandescent green flashes on the screen before you as a dolphin pushes against your dumbstruck child. If you have ever taken a breath in your life, you pray to remember how. A second smiling creature sidles in, and soon your child is dancing within the love army of dolphins. You hear their colour caress and enfold him as you scream the laughter of recently acquired insanity.
The black circle on your husband’s shirt fades. He touches your heart, as it too surrenders the shame.