To the Child I Will Not Have

I saw you yesterday in a grocery store. I caught your eye and, when I made a silly face, you mirrored it back at me. That’s how I knew it was you. Sometimes you come to me like this.

There are stories I have always wanted to tell you. Stories I think you might laugh at, like the time your great-grandma got stuck climbing through a fence and I had to pull her out, or the evening your uncle and I got yelled at for following a stray cat and forgetting to come home. I would want you to have all of these stories and more, the stories you will miss by never being born. Still, you are a dream. An inherited dream, but lovely all the same, with that sweet milky smell and those sticky fingers.

Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Photo by Ishan on Unsplash

But I think you understand. Too much is wrong and I would not know how to tell you why. How to explain the ice storms and the fires, how to introduce you to the sea only to watch you watch it die. You would love it too much. That first taste of salt wrinkling your nose, taking over in a grin. Our laughter in the sun, our itchy and burnt skin, the plastic washing up on the shore.

I would worry for you and be stupefied by your strength. You would fight, hope, fear. You would want to die, sometimes. Perhaps like me in a half-assed kind of way, or maybe like your uncle and great-uncles, with conviction and a wave goodbye. You would love and ache and lose and still you might say, yes, thank you for all of this. Or maybe you wouldn’t.

What would I tell you when you’d ask me what war is? What death is and when it is coming for you, for me? Would you believe in anything? Would you come home from school talking about world peace and, if you did, what would I say? People are dying over nothing, Audrey. Over nothing, Alec. Nothing, Ali.

I would like to run my hands through your hair, catch all your tears. I would like to dance with you. I would try to dance like your grandpa used to, singing: There was a time before we were born. If someone asks, this is where I’ll be. What is that place like and do we return there? Is your uncle there with you? See—I would ask for too much. I would ask you to bring him with you from that place. You would remind me too much of him and I would cry and you would hate me for it, love me even more.

But your eyes. When you would look at me my heart would break again and again. I am sorry you will never feel that knifelike joy. That we will never dance together, not in that physical sense, anyway. That vibrant presence that both shatters and reassembles us.

Yes, I would ask you for too much. I already am, you silent, speechless wonder. Even now, I ask for more when you have already become so much.

I am not having you, but you don’t need to be had. You are everywhere already anyway. You are the stranger I give my boots to, the depressed girl I write to online. I kiss you when I kiss the neighbour’s son and I see you laughing at me behind his eyes saying, Love exists, regardless. I love them all like I love you and I give you that love everywhere I go. Your gift to me, unending.

Eileen Mary Holowka is a writer, game dev, and PhD student, currently studying feminist social media practices around chronic pain and ‘invisible’ illnesses. In 2018, she created a digital narrative circuits about the difficult act of narrating sexual trauma within institutional spaces, which can be played for free online here.