What to do with time:
You can sleep your time away. Only if obligations permit, only if you’re not the mother of a newborn.
Hubby wakes up at the first suspicion of sound lately. What now? I ask, half awake, half asleep, yet fully irritated. Ruby needs her milk, he says. I drag myself out of bed and go to her. She’s calm in my arms.
That’s pure magic, says hubby, watching the miracle of motherhood unfolding in front of him. He frowns at me, like I fail to see the miracle, which is true, only I can’t admit it.
You cannot spend time, like you spend money. Time is limited. So is money, only money’s made up. So is time, only time, runs out. So time is money. Money is time. They’re two constructions, by which to measure happiness. And I have none.
I’m postpartum happy, or violently happy, or maybe violently depressed. Some people exist to serve others: slaves and mothers, I tell him. He seems perplexed by my words. And I’m so fed up with ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ that I’d happily throw her at him, only I’m not so out my mind.
You cannot invest time, like you invest money. In stocks, in gold, in babies.
No pain, no gain, he says and that’s the truth. Or a comforting lie we share to keep us going. I have the suspicion I can’t protect those I love without killing myself, I tell him. And it’s a self- preservation thing the reason I love less than expected, the reason I’m not fully committed. I want to play adults without committing to the game. But that’s impossible, he says.
If I am a mother, I’m definitely a martyr, because that’s what motherhood is all about and there’s no other way, they say, and I’ve never wanted to be a martyr. Not deliberately at least.
I realize that’s another stereotype, the martyrdom of motherhood. The sacredness that comes along. So I remain silent, for worse than confirming stereotypes is admitting them.
You cannot buy time, or freedom, or meaning. Sacrifice freedom for meaning. Yet meaning only comes with freedom.
In an alternate universe, I’m still a mother, only this time, new life is fictional. I create characters, instead of babies. Their ghosts remain, after the end of the story.
In an alternate universe, we have to choose which day to sell and we choose Tuesday, for Monday isn’t that bad if Tuesday doesn’t follow. The ghost says he once knew a girl named Ruby Tuesday whom he didn’t like, but then bows his head and gets lost in thought. He confesses he isn’t sure if it was a girl or a song, he’s only certain he didn’t like her/it.
You can’t sell Ruby for time, hubby says and I agree.
This is what to do with time:
Choose purposeless activities, like dance. Dance is a mystery. Dance is beauty. Dance is what you do, when Ruby smiles. Ignore the knock on the door. Don’t let reality interrupt.I see the innocence in her eyes and I know it can’t be her fault. I take her in my arms and sing her a lullaby and we dance together. Nothing matters when we’re dancing, like we’re in a Magnetic fields song and we sway to the music, the melody of life, like two souls engaging in an endless adventure.
And that’s how life should be.
An endless dance, a toast to freedom.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, Asymmetry fiction, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres and others.
*Photo by Mike Paraskevopoulos.