Words By Damhnait Monaghan, Art By Enrica Angiolini
“All babies cry,” says her nurse.
“My Rosie never screamed like that,” says her sister.
“You aren’t feeding him enough,” says her mother.
She feeds him until her milk runs dry and her breasts bleed. At night, his screams slide down the banister and slither along the floor, wrapping around her, tighter and tighter, until she can’t breathe.
“Supplement with formula,” says her nurse.
“I always had enough milk for Rosie,” says her sister.
“It’s not too soon for solids,” says her mother.
She mashes bananas and purees apples. She spoons in gallons of yogurt and still he screams. She bakes cakes; he eats them whole. She whips up shepherd’s pie, tacos, curry. But when the food is gone, the screams come back.
“Try controlled crying,” says her nurse.
“Rosie only eats organic,” says her sister.
“He’s got a great set of lungs,” says her mother.
Tonight, the screams are louder than her guilt, louder than her loneliness. She feeds him the contents of the fridge, the stroller, a box of diapers, her M.B.A., the size 4 dress her husband bought as “incentive” to lose the baby weight.
She covers her ears with chapped hands. Her fingers recoil at the lank hair and she pulls it hard until she’s screaming, too. She has nothing left to give.
Unless . . .
She grabs the vacuum cleaner. At first, he gags, and she worries he’ll choke. But then he slurps the hose down like spaghetti.
He looks at her.
She looks at him.
She snatches him from the highchair and lays him on the floor. He shakes his tiny fists at her, squeezing his eyes shut.
She stands over him, looking down. His mouth is wide open, the raging red maw growing bigger, wider, deeper. The screams pour out like toxic gas, rising to choke her. She claws at her face, gnaws on her fingers. Her eyes dart frantically around the room.
There is nothing else to give, no one who can help. There is no other choice.
She raises her arms above her head and dives straight down his throat: pale arms, white oversized T-shirt, black leggings, and with a final kick, her bare feet.
A moment later, the baby burps loudly, sticks his thumb in his mouth, and drifts slowly off to sleep.