Self Portrait in the Time of Disaster : After Deborah Paridez
By Billie Yarrow
When I sit on the sofa at my son’s Psychologist
heavy fabric tight across my face
my feet barely grazing the lino
I wonder how long it’s been since I last
sanitised my hands.
I have this friend who loves to drop in unannounced
no text no phone call no email or DM
they stay well past their welcome, even
when it’s obvious
I’m in the middle of something
the children are crying,
it’s past bedtime
I’m running late for an appointment
I have shit to do, okay?
Whenever they’re here
there’s that awkward moment when they hug me.
their arms wrapped too tightly and they do that thing,
where the hug is over, at least I think it is,
I can’t breathe.
I try to focus on what he’s saying
My bare-faced son sinks into the sofa beside me,
does his best to disappear.
Take me with you.
My clammy fingers grip the sides of my cloth covered nose
slide the too thick fabric to its rightful resting place
No, not there
I tug at my chin my nose my chin again
when I finally find the sweet spot I
wonder if the straps will leave a mark
I stopped listening two sentences ago
so I smile and nod
pick apart the words I remember
throw them together
into something that might be
what he said.
That hug again.
The too long grip that won’t go.
My breath comes in shallow. Swallows me
Two days later,
I adjust the breath damp fabric covering my face
stumble over my words
lips dry distracted.
My psychologist asks, would it help
if I could take it off?
This piece was shortlisted in the 2021 mindshare Awards, presented by mindshare, Writers SA, Access2Arts, and the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia. More info here.