Regina picked the bundle up off the the side of the road wrapped in a blanket. She checked first to make sure no one saw her. She had been standing behind the wall waiting for a long time. Waiting was something Regina was very good at; it was perhaps her best strength. She had waited first to grow up and be done being a child in a house full of siblings who were herded about like chickens. She passed the time by playing jacks and picking at scabs and occasionally reading books, but mostly she just waited, in one corner of the house or another, or on the school bus, or at the dinner table. Waiting was the best thing to do when you weren’t talented. Talented children had no end of things to do to prove to their parents and their parent’s friends that they were talented, but Regina’s parents never had illusions about her, which was fine with her. They were busy people, after all. It meant she didn’t have to worry what happened to her report cards or her art projects. Once for school she was tasked with a papier-mâché horse, and when she was done for the day she left it outside near the driveway to dry. That night it rained, and the next morning before the bus came, she carried it to the garage to throw it away, a little embarrassed, a little relieved; it never would have worked out anyway. She couldn’t get the shape of the neck right.
She was done being a child when her parents decided she should get married. It wasn’t an arranged marriage; it didn’t have the the weight of tradition or the sense of duty or pride. Marriage wasn’t something Regina had ever considered, and once she considered it she decided she didn’t really want it. But that was how childhood was going to be over and that was how her parents were going to find some void for her to fill in the world, so that was what she did—get married. Damian even proposed to her—got down on one knee and everything—like it was a real thing, like there was real emotion and history and decision behind it. When Damian proposed to her he talked for a while and Regina waited for him to be done, and when he was done she said yes, and that was how childhood ended.
There was a lot of waiting involved in being a fiancee—waiting for people to choose the date, the church, guests, waiting through the sermon. But that was nothing compared to marriage itself. Regina spent a lot of time waiting for Damien to come home, and when he got there, she waited until he was gone again. And marriage didn’t have a deadline like childhood did. It just went on. She wasn’t bitter about it. It was what she knew and she was good at it. It was how time passed. How better to complete twenty-six years comprised of weeks, days, and nights? To ride out doctors’ waiting rooms? To get through nine dizzy bloated months of pregnancy and twelve hours of labor?
When Lucas was born it was quite a shock. Childbirth wasn’t anything she had wanted either—in fact this time she was quite certain she did not want it. But it seemed to go hand in hand with marriage, and anyway once he was born she wasn’t sure what to do besides go along with it.
Lucas didn’t want to wait. In fact it rather seemed he didn’t know how to. Rather than wait he would cry, and once he could walk he would run for things, chase after them and grab them. At first Regina wondered if that meant he would be talented. But as Lucas turned from a baby into a little boy she began to doubt that. He continued to be impatient, to the point where it boiled into anger and pouting. Once while she was preparing toast for breakfast he began to cry from hunger, crying that bordered on screaming. She was so shocked she nearly burnt the toast, and even after she gave it to him he still cried with his mouth full. She wondered if she had ever been like him, unable to wait, but she didn’t think so. And when he started kindergarten he never brought back art projects to show her, not because he left them somewhere like she had, but because he didn’t do them, and no matter how long she waited for him to behave better, he misbehaved. She remembered wondering vaguely if waiting, which her parents had always done and which had worked so well for her, wasn’t necessarily what she should do with Lucas, like when he was a baby and she would wait all night for him to stop crying until he stopped or until Damian lost his patience. She wondered if Lucas was like that because of her or if he got it from Damian, that propensity to lose his patience. The bigger he got the more he would seize things and jump and scream and run. Run, run, run, in the house or in the yard, always running somewhere new.
She had never thought of blame as a part of growing up. She thought of it as parents waiting for children to get married and children waiting to not be children anymore. Anything that happened along the way was accident. Pure accident. That was how she saw it, mostly, but she still felt that sense of shame as she wrapped the bundle in a blanket when no one was looking. Walking back towards the house made her think of papier-mâché projects left out in the rain, the sense of embarrassment, it never would have worked out anyway.
3 comments on “Papier-mâché”
This is beautiful! I really want to know what the bundle is!! I hope it gets to grow! I can hear the tone change into something more ominous when you talk about blame.
It’s amazing how obvious something can seem to me when I write it and then it doesn’t come across to readers. I’d be interested to hear what people make of the “bundle” ordeal. Thanks, Maria!
Lucas. I see that bundle as poor Lucas, “purely an accident,” of course but she still feels shame so perhaps she turned her head at the wrong moment when he was running and -.