In the Corner Under Baby Jesus on the Cross
Time Does Not Pass Here. I do not let it.
I am five years old. Six. I stop about then. Never more than seven. Never less than two. The only thing I fear is being sucked down the drain of the bathtub. It is not childish when you feel the suction, hear how so many people die at home. In the tub. There are numbers. Numbers mean stuff. Stuff that happens often enough to count. That’s the important stuff. And more people die in bathtubs at home than you can count on one hand. That’s more than five. More than six. That’s enough to be a lot.
Cleanliness is next to godliness because it’ll kill you.
It used to hurt when she scrubbed my ears. I let her. She was bigger. I avoid the tub now that no one scrubs my ears for me. I don’t need the extra room. I do it in the deep sink in the kitchen. With the potato brush. I avoid my eyes. The potatoes don’t mind.
Time does not pass. My molecules got bigger, I’ll give them that. Not necessarily more plentiful. Just bigger. I feel the same. Exactly the same. Nightmares that don’t matter, shoes I have to grow into, knowledge that tomorrow will be exactly the same as today right down to the frankfurters.
It always is. I would not have it otherwise.
I am five. Six. Maybe big for my age. It doesn’t matter. Size doesn’t matter. Twenty years ago Matty Schonburger used to hold me underwater at the pool. He was half my size. Size does not matter.
Time does not matter.
Time does not have to stop if it never eked forward. No beginning, no eking.
Time. It never mattered. I like it that way. Quaint. Superstitious. Pretty. It’s called “timeless.”
I hear Matty Schonburger is five foot six and a champion scrapper now. Boxing. Addled. Doesn’t recognize his wife. She takes care of him. Puts a towel around his neck and points him at his opponent. When I hear that, I imagine that’s exactly what happened between us at the pool. A towel around his neck and someone pointing me out as his opponent. Nothing to think about. Nothing I did wrong. I wasn’t offensive. I was just the target.
Maybe the soft whisper-point was his wife, then, too; he hadn’t met her yet, poolside, so the inkling was just a glimmer. Towel around his neck. The notion of an opponent. Practice. To make money doing the same thing later. It was not my fault.
Time does not pass here. I am still five, six. I can sit in the corner anytime I want. I’m not allowed to touch the stove.
I don’t allow myself.
Someone’s always there, pointing it out. Remember, don’t touch the stove.
That’s my little chair. I used to stand on it to reach the stove.
I don’t have to anymore. I’m five-six. I’m big for my age.
I don’t touch the stove. I’m not allowed. It’s best not to. You learn your lesson. You don’t do what you’ve learned not to do. You don’t do what’s been done to you that you don’t like. I don’t hold people under the water. I don’t touch the stove.
It’s safe here. Time doesn’t pass.
I get a glass of juice. It’s my grandmother’s glass. She used to give me juice in this glass. She would have wanted me to have it so I could continue to have juice.
Otherwise, can you still have juice? Without the glass?
She was always nice, my grandmother, and not just nice to me. She was nice to the people on the television, too. When she was told to frame her answer in the form of a question, she did. When she was told to buy a vowel, she did. She gave me a quarter for my piggy bank. Every time.
My piggy bank is heavy. It holds twenty years of quarters.
I do not take them to the bank. My grandmother gave them to me. My grandmother gave me this glass. To drink my juice. She would have wanted me to have it.
She would have wanted Alex Trebek to have it, too. My grandmother was nice to everyone.
Alex Trebek never drank out of my juice glass. That’s why I have never given it to him. I am not just selfish. I am selfish as well. But not just.
My grandmother may have wanted him to have it, but I don’t speak to him. We don’t pal around. To my discontent. I don’t answer him in the form of a question. I don’t talk to the television.
Sometimes I think I should. It gets lonely here. It’s often quiet. But nothing changes. That’s for the best. If nothing changes, time does not pass, and if time does not pass, nothing changes. Then I’m safe to stay here where it’s safe. I worry about nothing except childish things I don’t need to worry about. Sweet life. I don’t do things that would make me have to worry. A good child. The model child. It’s been that way many years.
Practice makes perfect.
Stay out of the bathtub. Stay out of the pool. Don’t touch the stove. Fire. Water. Those are healthy fears. Not childish. Reasonable.
Time doesn’t pass.
Everything is peaceful.
Alex Trebek is not my friend. Matty Schonburger is not my friend. Don’t touch the stove. Drink your juice. Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.
The broken window is an accident. Grandmother’s picture hurling through it may not be. She would have given Alex Trebek my glass. And then I wouldn’t have been able to drink my juice. I would not have been able to be obedient anymore.
Drink your juice.
I’ve never said that before, and I will not say it now.
Lippy, she would have called it.
Drink your juice.
I am the model child.
I am smug. It’s the only thing you can’t take away from me, Alex, Matty, I don’t have to share with you, I’m better than you, I listen, my clean ears bleed, I obey, I don’t touch the stove. That burn on your arm hurts, eh, Matty? Towel around your neck and she, your mate, points out who to hit next. My grandmother taught me not to hit.
Time doesn’t do what I won’t let it.
*With apologies to Alex Trebek; I will share my juice.
All rights reserved to Dawn Wilson.
Illustrations by Meghan Irwin.