Somewhere Between Here and There I Found You (Excerpt)
I've imagined this scenario playing out in so many different ways and now that you are here, in the flesh, all I have to offer you is tears.
Her: Has it been rough?
Me: No. It hasn't been rough.
I narrow my eyes, push my tongue to the side of my cheek, take a sip of coffee and a breath too. She knows exactly what I'm going to say, yet I say it still...
Me: The fact that you think it has been is exactly why it's taken us so long to meet.
Her: Do you always need to be so critical?
Me: Yes. You never give me a bloody break.
Her: Ah, I see you haven't lost your bite Saima.
Me: Yep. I still bite. But I'm so desperate to not. So, someone says something and I react. Not to everything, not always, but anything relating to the kids and I bite. These days I take a second though to think about whether I should, but nine times out of ten, you can bet I do. And I feel terrible and tired afterwards. Even when it's been worth it, but not for the reasons you think but because I'm not getting any closer to the red-haired, blue-eyed, slightly hunched old woman, walking down Byres Road with her waxed coat and bag for life full of closed tulips.
I lean forward so close our noses almost touch, blood rushes through my veins.
Me: Hey so listen, my heart is bursting and I need to tell you why. I've got these really beautiful kids that are my whole life. My eldest, Miriam, she is as old as the rocks and so forgiving. She was born in a storm. I could feel her before she knew she was ready. Then she made her mind up and strong as an ox she stayed her course. She was like a ball of fire coming into this world, a head full of jet-black hair and fists of fury. She looked at me. I'll never forget. A few seconds in the world and she dead stared at me, as if to hold me to account. She questioned me. What right did I have to be her mother? So I cried and I sang and I cried — it's all I had. Luckily it's all she needed and all was forgiven. She accepted me.
I knew though that I would always have to earn my place as her mother. We spent every minute together. I made so many mistakes and she just stayed. She stuck around. Strong, sweet. And it's been real, you know? I felt like becoming her mum catapulted me into the unknown, it unrooted all my banks and I became pure river, rushing towards something. What, I'm still not sure.
And then there's Esa. If Miriam was the storm, then Esa was the calm that followed. He has a face like butter, soft, creamy and it melts into you. Two huge black eyes with just the right amount of space for a kiss between them and these soft pink lips that never miss a drop of milk.
Together, they keep this river flowing. I've never known a love like this.
But I have so much anger and rage. Becoming a mum just brought that out. Everyone around me is tilting their head sideways, hoping to empathise, patronising instead. It is what we do as a polite society. I catch myself doing it to others and all I am is a big ball of rage. I have a fire in my tummy and a hope that sparks that flame. I don't always like people much, but I am so full of hope for them. I am always hopeful for a better tomorrow. It's no coincidence that I remember that one quote from Cat's Eye. ‘It's old light and there's not much of it. But it's enough to see by.’ But the rage exhausts me. I want to stand at a cliff and hurl out the kind of scream that would compete even with thunder.
Her: So why don't you?
Me: I'm too angry.
By Saima Sheikh