05 May Toualetehydrophobia
“Toualetehydrophobia”Written by Kevin David Anderson Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by Rob Davids
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⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 18 minutes
I had no idea there were so many debilitating phobias. There are those that are terrified of right angles, Mexican food, the letter R, the metric system, and even a miserable few that fear Wednesdays, becoming incapacitated every hump-day. There is even a phobia of elastic. Can you imagine being afraid of your underwear?
Irrational fears are life-altering, and it broke my heart when we found out about my son’s. We discovered his while Christmas shopping at the mall. My son had to go to the bathroom, so we started our quest. Why department store bathrooms are located in the place farthest from where you start looking for them is a mystery for another time, but we found it. My five-year-old made a mad dash for the closest stall, and I knew by his pace that we’d just made it. I stepped over to the sink but before I turned the water on my son screamed.
I pushed on the stall door, but it was locked. “Jacob, you okay?”
“Daddy!” There was terror in his voice.
I kicked the door. It didn’t budge. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s trying to eat me.”
“What’s trying to eat you?”
“The water. Daddy!”
Had to be a joke. Do five-year-olds make jokes like this? “Can you unlock the door?”
“I can’t reach. It won’t let me.”
“What won’t let you?”
“The water. Help!”
I put my shoulder into the door. It popped with a metallic ping, and water splashed the floor. My son, tears on both cheeks, stood to the side of the bowl, hands clasping the toilet paper dispenser. He waddled, pants around his ankles, into my arms. I held him close. Water-soaked through my shirt, transferring from his body to mine. At first, I’d thought he’d peed himself, but there was water all over the floor, the toilet, even the walls.
“Did you fall in?”
“No Daddy, it grabbed me.”
I pushed him from my embrace. “I don’t understand. What grabbed you?”
He wiped his nose, getting the tears under control. “The water. It wanted to eat me.”
I looked into the toilet. Other than it needing a good cleaning, nothing seemed out of sorts.
“Jacob, water doesn’t eat people.”
“I felt its teeth.” He turned, pointing at his butt. “Right here.”
I looked at his skin, blinking a few times, hoping I’d find nothing. But on his left cheek in a circular pattern, six-inch diameter were tiny red marks. An image from an animated 80’s film When the Wind Blows came to mind. A rat in a toilet feeding on feces attacked a character, and even though a cartoon, the image has haunted me.
Again, I examined the bowl, this time for rodent hair and found nothing. By the time I looked back at my son, the marks were fading.
“Do you still have to go?”
He shook his head quickly, eyes wide.
Whatever had happened, I decided he’d been through enough. I wasn’t going to let on that I knew he was lying.
“Sometimes after a man pees, he has to go again right away. Think that might happen?”
He nodded, so I carried him to the nearest urinal. He wasn’t tall enough for the important part of his anatomy to reach so he stood on my feet. Unsure of how this new peeing arrangement was to work he pondered for a few beats before letting things flow.
It was about this time that my wife, Gayle poked her head in. “What’s taking so long?”
“We’re fine,” I said over my shoulder. “Had a situation.”
“Is it going to take long?”
“A minute. Why don’t you head over to gift-wrapping and we’ll meet you.”
“Fine,” she said, disdain in her voice. “Oh, and I ate your cookie.”
“Goddammit. The only reason I come to this mall is to get a cookie.”
“That’s a penny for the swear jar, Dad.”
“Okay. Take care of it later.” I sighed. My marriage was shit. There are only two times in life a woman will eat a man’s cookie without his permission; one when they just start dating and she knows that he is more interested in getting into her cookies rather than eating one, and second when the woman doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the consequences because the marriage has gone to complete and utter shit.
I cleaned Jacob up, no small chore thanks to the save-the-planet hand drying machines. If environmentalists spent less time saving us from ourselves and more time cleaning up after kids, we’d still have paper towels in public restrooms.
While Jacob picked out wrapping paper for our presents, Gayle asked me what had happened. I recapped it as best I could, even offered my rodent explanation. Hearing myself tell the story, I realized how strange it sounded, ridiculous, even surreal, but my wife didn’t react as I’d expected. Normally she would have taken the opportunity to point out how inattentive I was as a father, or lambasted me for not watching the situation closer like any good parent.
But it didn’t come. She just held a pensive look.
“What’re you thinking?”
“Not sure. He really said that ‘the water tried to eat him’?”
I nodded. Without another word she turned away and joined Jacob.
It was a quiet ride home. We arranged the presents for friends and relatives under the tree, my wife heated dinner, we played a board game, and that was it. We didn’t talk about it for weeks. Not until we had too. It was a Wednesday when Gayle called me at my office. I work in internet security as a consultant and was in a meeting telling a medical company how they were hacked, and what I was going to do to ensure it wouldn’t happen as easily next time—and rest assured, there’s always a next time—when my assistant interrupted.
“It’s your wife. Jacob’s in the hospital.”
I excused myself and picked up the line in the waiting area. “Gayle?”
“Where the fuck’ve you been?”
“In a meeting. What happened?”
“Jacob collapsed at school in horrible pain.”
“The ER doctor says his kidneys are backed up, and his colon is impacted.”
“David, he hasn’t gone to the bathroom in almost three weeks. Not since that day at the mall.”
“That’s ridiculous. How is that—”
“David, just get down here.” Gayle sobbed. “They’re gonna put a catheter in him.”
I left the office in a daze, and don’t remember driving to the hospital. I sincerely hope I didn’t hit anybody. The next thing I knew, I was at my boy’s side as he howled in pain. Ever watch your child being fitted with a catheter? I don’t recommend it. They flushed his kidneys and ran tests to check for long-term damage. Toxicity levels in his young body were alarmingly high but hadn’t become lethal.
“How could a child, a five-year-old, keep from going to the bathroom for weeks?” I said to the attending physician, Dr. Adams. But even as the words left my lips, I knew it was the wrong question. How the hell could we, his parents, not know he wasn’t going to the bathroom?
I could tell by the doctor’s hesitant response that he’d like to know that as well. Instead of asking the question, he said, “There’s no physical reason why Jacob can’t go to the bathroom. Everything’s in working order. Any lingering discomfort he may experience will dissipate in a few days with the antibiotics I’ve prescribed. But there is nothing physically wrong with your son.”
“Okay, so that leaves us where?”
“I can only conclude that your son’s problem is physiological. I recommend he see a child psychologist.”
“Jesus.” I ran fingers through my hair.
Adams retrieved a card from a pocket. “Here’s the number of a wonderful therapist. She’s helped lots of children.”
I didn’t take the card. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want Jacob to need me to take the card. I wanted things back the way they were. I was in a loveless marriage, stuck in a lackluster job, but a proud parent of a great kid. And that was all I needed. I could live with that. But not this. “My son’s not crazy.”
“Nobody is saying that,” Adams said. “But he needs help.”
“We’re his parents. We’ll help him.”
Adams closed his eyes for a few beats as if this wasn’t the first conversation he’d had with a father in denial. He returned the card to his pocket. “We’re admitting Jacob for overnight observations. Barring any unexpected test results, he can go home tomorrow.”
An hour later Jacob was moved upstairs to a room, where exhaustion set in and he fell fast asleep. Gayle and I watched him for almost an hour without saying anything. We just sat and watched him breathe. After it seemed we were both convinced that he’d continue breathing even if we looked away, I finally spoke. “How did we miss this?”
“Miss what?” Gayle said.
“How did we miss that he wasn’t going to the bathroom?”
“By we, you mean, me, right?”
“No, Gayle. I really want to know,” I said trying not to sound accusatory. “Did he give you a reason why he wasn’t using the bathroom?”
Gayle closed her eyes. “Said he was afraid.”
“Of the bathroom?”
“The toilet water,” Gayle said. “He thinks it wants to eat him.”
“The water. Crap, this goes back to what happened at the damn mall.”
“What happened that day, David?”
“I told you everything. Even my rodent theory.”
“He wasn’t bitten. I checked when we got home,” Gayle said. “The marks you described were gone or were never there.”
“He said he feared the water? The water, Gail?”
Gayle nodded and then must have seen something on my face as the wheels in my head began to take me back. “This has nothing to do with that,” she snapped.
“No, of course not,” I said more to avoid a fight rather than stop my thought process. “I just think it’s interesting, that he said water.”
When we started dating—and I use the word dating loosely, as it was more a string of uninspired hook-ups—I learned about Gayle’s gift. There was a group of us out one night, discussing useless talents. My roommate demonstrated his ability to turn his eyelids inside out without touching them and Gayle’s sorority girlfriend could clip her toenails into a shot-glass, which she unfortunately demonstrated. I did my impression of a tap-dancing mouse with the full musical score. But Gayle’s talent was the topper of the evening. We sat mesmerized as she twirled her index finger over a glass of water. Without coming in physical contact with the glass or the liquid inside, the water move. It spun, mimicking the motion of her finger, swirling around like in a toilet bowl. If she changed direction, the water too changed.
During our six-month relationship, before she got pregnant, I’d seen her do a few other things inadvertently. Once at the beach, I swear she took control of a wave that was about to hit her. At least a foot over her head, and only seconds from crashing into her, Gayle held up her hands defensively and the wave split down the middle dissipating to either side of her. A few weeks later a speeding car drove through a huge puddle sending a shower of dirty water our way. We both saw it coming but I was the only one who got soaked. There are other examples but what we realized was that this talent, or gift, call it what you will, was one she could only summon when slightly intoxicated. She had to be drinking in order for it to work, not stoned. We know because we tried them all. It had to be alcohol.
We were always inebriated when together, but when she got pregnant, she stopped drinking, and so did I. It’s amazing how sobering a pregnancy test could be. It took some doing because as we were to find out we were alcoholics, or at least heading down that road. Jacob changed our lives and we found sobriety. And with sobriety came a fresh look at one another, resulting in more than just the loss of her unique talent.
“I can’t believe you’re bringing that up,” Gayle said. “It’s been fucking years. How dare you.”
“Goddammit, Gayle, I’m not accusing you. Shit, I just want to know why this happened.”
“And I don’t? I’m his mother.”
“Why’re you so fucking defensive?”
“I’m not – but everything is not my goddamn fault.”
“I…” I took a deep breath. “You’re right. Let’s just focus on Jacob. He needs us. Why don’t you go home, get some rest. I’ll stay with him tonight.”
Gayle nodded. “Think they’ll let you spend the night?”
“They’ll have a hard time stopping me.”
Gayle picked up her purse, kissed Jacob then moved over to me, hesitated, and gave me an obligatory hug. I squeezed her shoulders and wondered how long we could keep this up.
When the sounds of her footfall had faded down the hall, a groggy voice spoke from behind me.
“Hey, Daddy, I lost track…”
I turned to find Jacob’s eyes open. “Lost track?”
“I lost track, but I think you owe about ten dollars to the swear jar.”
I laughed. “Probably right, son. Take care of it when we get home.”
Jacob sat up. “Are you and mommy gonna get a divide?’
“This girl in my class, her parents got a divide. Now she gets two birthdays and two Christmases.”
His question was like a punch in the stomach. “You mean a divorce. And no, we’re not getting one.”
“But if you did, can I live with you?”
The weight of his words caused me to sit. I scooted closer to his bed. “Why wouldn’t you want to live with mommy?” I asked, not sure if there was an answer I wanted to hear.
“Mommies should always come when you call,” he said.
“What does that mean?”
His mouth opened to speak but paused, and I got the sense he was rethinking his answer. After a few beats, he said, “She doesn’t know anything about Star Wars and thinks Pokémon is dumb.”
“Well, now,” I said. “I understand. These are pretty serious issues. Maybe we should talk about them at the next family meeting.” I took a deep breath. “Right now, I’d like to talk about why we’re here, and not at home?”
“It’s because I hurt myself. I didn’t go to the bathroom.”
“That’s right. Mommy told me that—”
“It’s the water, Daddy. It wants to eat me,” Jacob’s voice rose, agitated.
“But, Jacob, you know that’s—”
“I’m not going near that water, ever again.”
Before I could respond there was a knock at the door. I turned as a nurse poked her head in. “Knock, knock,” she said, stepping inside. “Dr. Adams recommended we try this.”
“Is that a bedpan?” Outside of a movie I don’t think I’d ever seen a real one.
She nodded. “It’s kind of big, I know, but we don’t have a children’s ward at this hospital, so we don’t have his size.” She looked over at Jacob. “Do you want to give it a try?”
Jacob looked at me for guidance.
“Give it a go.”
Jacob sat on the thing in his bed. He seemed to like that there wasn’t any water in it, and although he didn’t go, it gave me an idea. I called Gayle and she said it was worth a try.
The next day upon arriving home we showed him what Gayle had bought. It was the largest toddler training toilet chair she could find. A kid’s version of a bedpan that sets on the floor in the bathroom while a child learns to take care of their business. On the packaging, it said for use with ages six months to two years, and it was odd seeing my five-year-old on it, but no weirder than a six-year-old in diapers, or a ten-year-old breastfeeding—all things I’ve seen. Gayle had even found a Pokémon one.
“Check it out, Buddy,” I said. “You can take a crap right on Pikachu’s face.”
Jacob laughed. “Swear jar, Dad.”
“Alright, but you have to clean it. You’re a big boy, and that means dumping out your business in the toilet. Your mom and I will help you the first few times, okay?”
Jacob nodded, less enthused. He looked over at the toilet as if it might grab him, then scooted the training chair as far away as possible.
And that was that. Over the next few days, Gail and I helped him with the dumping and cleaning and then he took over. We had our solution. It wasn’t perfect, like a square band-aid on a round wound, but in my mind, it was over. A temporarily fix, until he grew out of whatever the hell this was. But as I would soon learn, this wasn’t the kind of thing you grow out of.
Less than a month had passed, and I had all but forgotten about Jacob’s irrational behavior when Gayle met me at the front door one evening. In our five-year marriage not once had Gayle ever met me at the door. “Come with me to the backyard,” she said.
“Hello to you too,” I said.
I followed her around the side of the house. She pointed to spot by the fence. I could see flies. Hundreds. “Something die back there?”
Gayle shook her head. I could see she’d been crying. As I moved past her, the smell hit me. I gagged once, twice, then used my tie to cover my nose. Plastic beach shovels were scattered around, covered in what looked like mud. But it wasn’t mud. The stench of human waste overwhelmed me. I vomited, just missing my shoes.
I staggered back to Gayle, unable to deal with the realization that our son had been burying—
doing his five-year-old best—a month’s worth of excrement.
“Back at the hospital, Dr. Adams gave me a child psychologist’s number,” Gayle said. “He gave it to me because you wouldn’t take it.”
“Make an appointment,” I said.
“I already did. Tomorrow, ten a.m.,” Gayle said, walking away.
I gagged. “Good call,” and threw up again. This time my shoes weren’t as lucky.
* * *
Jacob saw the psychologist, Karen Mathews, three times a week for almost a month. I liked her. A bit young but really knew her stuff. After one initial meeting with all of us, she met with Jacob alone. After about session nine or ten, she asked to meet with Gayle and me while Jacob sat in the waiting room. There was a receptionist out there so Jacob wouldn’t be alone, but Jacob protested. There was a bathroom right next to the waiting area. When the toilet was flushed, the sound of the swirling water caused Jacob to tremble. He was now at the point where he couldn’t even be within ten feet of a toilet.
Karen allowed Jacob to stay if he promised not to listen. He sat in the corner with headphones and played a game on my phone as we began.
“I think he’s getting worse,” I started. “We keep his potty in the garage now. Hell, he brushes his teeth in the kitchen.”
“I know,” Karen said. “And you’re correct his situation is becoming paramount.”
Gail’s eyes were wet and red. “What’s wrong with him?”
“When we first met I mentioned a possible diagnosis, and one of the reasons I called you in here today is because I’d like to make it official. He is suffering from an acute case of Toualethydrophobia.”
“Jesus,” I said. “The fear of toilet water. How is that even a thing?”
Gayle began to sob silently.
“I don’t wish to spend our time focusing on the phobia itself,” Karen said. “What Jacob and I have been working on in our last few meetings is dealing with what triggered the phobia.”
“The incident at the department store this past Christmas.”
Karen shook her head. “It goes further back than that, and Jacob and I have been getting close, but every time we approach the event, he becomes blocked, very agitated, and shuts down.”
“Is there a way to get over this block?”
“Yes, and that’s the next thing I’d like to talk to you about. During our last few sessions, we’ve been working on EMDR therapy—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a technique that will allow Jacob to approach the event and reframe how he feels about it. I hope we can alter his fear and turn it into a source of strength. Today I’d like to push past his block, deal with the event of origin, and start the process.”
I can’t say I understood everything she said, but it all sounded positive. Any improvement in my son would be welcome. “Are you asking our permission to do this?”
She smiled. “I just wanted you to be aware of where we’re at and what I’m hoping to accomplish today.”
“Is it all right if we watch?” Gayle asked.
“Of course,” Karen said. “Let’s get started.”
We sat in the corner of the room closest to the door while Karen prepared Jacob. There was a long serious of questions, asking Jacob about the colors and smells in the room. After fifteen minutes of this Jacob leaned back and put his hands behind his head. He took long steady breaths. I hadn’t seen him this relaxed in months. He smiled, even when the conversation turned to the trauma at the department store.
“And what did the water try to do?” Karen asked.
He responded casually. “Tried to eat me.”
“But it didn’t, did it?”
“Nope,” Jacob said.
“Why is that?”
Because water doesn’t eat people, I wanted to shout.
Jacob held up his hand as if he were thrusting a sword into the air. “Because I am strong. Way stronger than water.”
“That’s right, Jacob.” Karen pulled something out of her pocket. I couldn’t see what it was because of where I sat, but I could see that Jacob’s eye’s locked on it. I leaned a bit to catch a glimpse. Karen held a small toy. Kid’s call them fidget spinners. She used an index finger to give it a slight turn every few seconds, and with another finger, she started tapping on its center. So there was a turn, a tap, a turn, and a tap. It continued like this for several minutes. “Can you remember a time when you were going potty, but you didn’t feel strong? A time before the water tried to eat you at the department store.”
With his eyes locked on the toy, Jacob nodded.
“Can you tell me where that was?”
“Are you alone?”
“No, Mommy’s home. But she’s sick. I keep calling but she won’t come.”
“Did you need her?”
“Yes. Mommy help me. I’m falling.”
I looked over at Gayle. She was shaking. “What the fuck, Gayle?”
Without meeting my gaze, she got up and left. I followed, stopping only to shut the door to Karen’s office. I grabbed Gayle by the wrist.
She whirled around. “It’s not my fault.”
“What is Jacob talking about?”
She covered her face with her hands. “Oh, god, oh, god, please don’t let this be my fault.” I guided her to a couch. The receptionist’s eyes were on us, but I didn’t care.
Gayle wiped her nose. “It was over a year ago, almost two. We told Jacob he couldn’t use the toddler practice seat anymore. He had to be a big boy and use the toilet without it. You remember?”
“Well, one time, when…he…”
“Gayle, what the fuck happened?”
“He fell in, lost his grip or something.”
“Was he hurt?”
“No, but he was stuck. Couldn’t lift himself out.”
“Okay. So he called out and you came and got him.”
“I heard him calling. Over and over. Mommy help,” Gayle cried.
“You helped him, right?”
She looked at me, clearly reliving the scene. Her lips tightened.
“Why didn’t you help him?”
“Because I was drunk! I collapsed on the couch and just listened to him. I was sick of him. Sick of you.”
“Jesus, how long was he in there?”
She put her hands over her face. “Three hours. When I finally got him out I made him promise never to speak of what happened. Bury it. Just bury it.”
She dropped her hands and faced me, eyes angry. “You want to know why I was drinking?”
I stood up. “I don’t give a fuck.”
She grabbed my hand. “I unpacked your suitcase from your Boston trip. There was lipstick all over one of your shirt collars. Jesus, David, how cliché can you get?”
I leaned down, bringing my face close to hers. “You stupid bitch. Our client took us to a strip club. A stripper sat on me, kissed my neck, tried to sell me a lap dance. I left and took a cab back to the hotel.”
“You didn’t…” She slid off the couch and fell to the ground. “I’m sorry, David.”
I pulled my hand away. “Go home,” I said, then walked back into Karen’s office. I shut the door quickly. I didn’t want Jacob to hear his mother cry.
“Calm down, Jacob,” Karen said. She was on her knees in front of Jacob’s chair.
Jacob kicked wildly with both feet. “I can’t get out. I can’t.”
“That’s not where you are right now. Tell me what colors are in my office.”
“Mommy, where are you?!”
I walked over to Karen’s side. She held a hand out indicating not to interfere.
“Jacob, I need you to listen to me.” Karen put her hands on his shoulders.
“Mommy should come when I call.”
A crash came from the waiting room. It sounded like furniture being flipped over. It was punctuated by a bloodcurdling scream. Gayle’s screamed. I assumed Gayle was throwing a tantrum, but then there was another scream. Distinctly not Gayle’s. The receptionist. I moved toward the office door and looked back at Jacob.
“Help me, Mommy!”
Gayle screamed again, and like an echo, so did the receptionist.
I hurried into the waiting room, and my left foot instantly slipped on the wet floor. I kept myself from falling by grabbing a coffee table that had been upended. I stepped on drenched magazines. The receptionist was on the floor, clothes, and hair wet, one shoe gone. But Gayle was nowhere to be found.
“Where’s my wife?”
The woman didn’t say anything, just pointed toward the short hall heading to the bathroom. I jumped over the table and turned the corner just as Gayle screamed. I saw a pair of hands holding onto the doorframe inches from the ground. She pulled her head up into the hall and caught my gaze. “Help me, David!”
I dove, grabbed her hands and held tight. We were both pulled into the bathroom sliding on the wet floor. My head slammed into the sink and I lost my grip. I laid back and looked up in horror.
A funnel of water encased my wife’s legs. As it swirled around, sharp ripples gouged into her thighs. Blood streaked the water, winding around, red stripes on a candy cane. The funnel lifted her up, then slammed her against the stall door. Gayle reached for me, eyes pleading. But all I did, all I could do, was watch as the funnel swallowed her hips, then her torso. The twisting water pulled her into the stall, and that’s when I noticed where the tornado of liquid came from. The toilet.
The funnel began to sink into the bowl, getting smaller and smaller. The water made almost no sound, which seemed to amplify the snapping and crunching of Gayle’s bones. As it pulled my wife in, she said the last thing she would ever say to me. “David, it hurts.”
The lid came down with a slam. Water dripped down each side of the bowl, clean and clear. When I was finally able to take a breath, I felt something in my hand. I unclenched a fist and found Gayle’s wedding ring resting in the center of my palm. It must have come off when I had ahold of her hands.
Dizzy, I crawled over to the toilet, lifted the seat. The water was still, quiet. No sign of Gayle. No blood, hair, bone, nothing. Not even her scent. She was gone. I looked at the ring in my hand and tried to remember when we bought it. Where we bought it. Anything. I couldn’t. I let it drop into the bowl. Watched it sink. Then flushed.
* * *
Jacob and I are Canadian now. It’s not so bad. Bit cold. Nice health care. We made the sudden move up north when I began to realize the police were not on board with the “toilet ate my wife” story. I don’t blame them. I did think that the receptionist’s corroboration would help, and it did until parts of Gayle began showing up in different sewage treatment plants across the greater plains area. To put it mildly, it horrified the public, and police were pressured to find a suspect. Since there was no one but me, up to the Great White North we went. Not a difficult job for an internet security expert. In fact, the only hard part was convincing Jacob that our new last name couldn’t be Skywalker.
We’ve been up here a year and Jacob, who now goes by Luke, shows no signs of his toualetehydrophobia. Like my wife, it’s gone. I’ve given it a fair amount of thought and I’m still not sure if Gayle’s gift was the cause of Jacob’s phobia. Did she manifest something that terrorized him? I don’t know. But when it comes to Gayle’s death, I had a theory, and it was comforting for a while. I liked to think her guilt over what she may have done to Jacob took physical form through her gift and sentenced herself to her own form of punishment. I used to believe in some way it was kind of redeeming. She wasn’t a great mom, but at least she knew it and felt bad about it. Anyway, I don’t think that anymore.
On Jacob’s birthday, we went out for steaks. Like men. As we waited for the food to arrive, I thought I should check in with him about his mom. He hadn’t talked about her, and honestly at the time with all the covert relocating I was glad. I had my hands full. But we were settled now. It was time.
“Right, Luke. Ever think about Mom?”
“No,” he said, putting a finger on the rim of his water glass.
“Well, do you miss her?”
“No.” He started moving his finger in a slow circle over his glass.
“Okay. Why not?”
He looked at me, eyes narrow. “Mommies should come when you call.”
A chill moved through me as I stared at his glass. The liquid moved.
I opened my mouth to ask him a question, one I did not want to ask for fear he might answer. Did you hurt your mom? But in the end, I didn’t need to. The answer was in his eyes, and in the liquid in the glass, now swirling like water in a toilet bowl.