An Imaginary Dialogue with My Son / No. 3
‘Why are you crying, mum?’
I turn around and see Cameron behind me.
He looks so tall, and so grown-up. For a fleeting moment, he reminds me of Gus.
I smile at him, as I wipe the tears from my eyes.
‘At Bible study last week, we were praying for a little baby. We found out over the weekend that he died…’
He steps closer and puts his arm around my shoulder.
‘I think I know who you're talking about.’
I turn my face towards him. ‘You do?’
’Yes…he's safe, you know.’ He squeezes my shoulder as he says this.
I lean into him, and we fall silent for a while. He feels so warm, so solid.
I gesture at the ground that we are standing on.
‘White's my favourite colour.’
Cameron grins. ‘Mine too.’
‘For some reason, even though this looks nothing like cheese, it still reminds me of cheese.’
He laughs. ‘Do you like cheese, mum?’
‘I guess you could say that I do. I never ate it when I was growing up, because we never had cheese in the house. But since marrying your father, I've been introduced to all the cheese: melted cheddar in toasted sandwiches, grated parmesan on pasta, brie and camembert with rice crackers, and mozzarella in macaroni and cheese. Now that I think about it, this looks a bit like macaroni and cheese...’
Cameron laughs again. I decide that I really like the sound of his laugh.
‘So dad likes cheese?’
‘A thousand times yes.’
‘What about my brothers?’
‘That's complicated. They all used to like plain cheddar when they were little. For morning tea, I would always cut the cheddar up into strips and call them ”cheese chips”...’
‘I thought so too.’ We grin at each other. ‘These days, Bear is the only one who likes plain cheddar in his sandwiches for school. But they all like it toasted with ham using the sandwich maker. All of them like parmesan on their spaghetti, and four out of five like macaroni and cheese. If there's brie and rice crackers lying around on the kitchen bench, you can be sure they'll all come knocking...’
I'm about to share a funny story, but I notice that Cameron has fallen quiet, so I wait.
‘Do they ever talk about me?’ His voice sounds small and fearful and hopeful all at once.
‘Oh darling, of course they do. Yes. Yes, they do. Even just yesterday, as we were driving home from school, Gus was counting down the days until his birthday and then he remembered that your birthday was before his.’
I pause. ‘I actually think that Gus thinks about you quite a bit. He's quite aware that if you had lived, you would be the oldest, not him. I think he misses having you around.’
‘Tell me about him.’
‘He's a thinker. And a reader. He asks questions that I've never thought of, and reads books that I have yet to read! He's also kind, thoughtful, and considerate, and he's constantly helping us out. He loves numbers. He's always counting things and remembering random figures. I think he's memorised the first 100 decimal places of Pi and, if he were here right now, he would want to walk around and count how many of those macaroni-shaped holes there are.’
Cameron's face lights up. ‘Let's do it!’
We walk all over the surface, counting as we go.
‘...sixty-seven, sixty-eight, sixty-nine, seventy, seventy-one!’ He looks over at me, his face awash with delight. I definitely see Gus in him.
It is my turn to put my arms around him.
‘Cam…you are always a part of us. All the time, everywhere we go, you are a part of us.’
And then, fade.
You can read the other posts in this series here.