Monday, May 12, 2008

Oh God No

I was on my fourth sinkful of soapy hot dishes, methodically washing the items in the left basin, placing them in the empty right basin. Then I'd pick up a dishtowel and wipe dry the dishes that had been drying on the rack, putting them away neatly. Rinse the stuff in the right basin and place in the rack to dry. Repeat.

The carefully built tater tot casserole was just starting to bubble in the oven. I heard the ending music of the 4:30 PBS show in the living room.

Chris walked in with an armful of prescriptions for our sickly children. We went over how much cost what, how it wasn't as bad as I thought. We chatted as I handed him clean, wiped dry dishes to put away. Anna sucked on dry washcloths in the high chair nearby.

Chris wandered into the living room, and he asked, "So I know where the little one is (Anna), where's the other one?"

"I don't know. Out playing in the backyard? Where do you think?" I joked.

"Well, he's not down here. He's probably upstairs playing," Chris said.

I looked around, noticing the open doors, with just the screen doors in place, to allow some fresh air to filter through the house.

"What if he got outside? Would he do that? He doesn't have his shoes on!"

Chris took the stairs two at a time as I looked in all the hiding places on the first floor.

"He's not up here!"

In an instant, Chris was downstairs and outside, calling back at me to stay in the house with Anna. I went through the house again, looking under beds, in closets, in the tub, in Anna's crib, under blankets, behind couches and chairs. I called for Ben over and over again.

I ran outside, calling for him, looking in the garage, in the backyard, looking towards the yards accessible from our own. Up to the alley, left and right. No Ben. I went back inside, my mind kicking into overdrive. Where's the phone? I need to call 911. The police can help us look. Oh god where's Ben. I haven't heard any car brakes. No sirens. Has Chris called them yet? What if someone saw him looking out the front screen door and took him? What if someone saw him wandering down the street and took him?

It must have only been two minutes, but it felt like hours. My heart was spinning, my mind racing, my anxiety level skyrocketing as the panic settled around me, seizing my body.

I saw Chris walking back to our house with Ben on his shoulders. Chris seemed so freaking calm. Ben had a quiet sleepy look on his face, a little scared, sensing the mood.

I collapsed in sobs and shrieks, the enormity of everything washing over me. The "what ifs," the "oh my God, my precious baby boy." Ben sat in front of me while I cried. He hugged me, and pursed his lips up to me for a kiss. He didn't know any better. He doesn't know the danger.

I tried relaxing. I tried letting life go back to normal. Crisis over. Everything's fine. But I didn't have the strength to lift the dishes to wash them, my muscles fatigued after the incredible tension that held my body taut.

Ben is playing with his choo-choos. The tater tot casserole is cooling. I'm blogging, trying to transition back to normality. After this, I want to pretend it didn't happen, that my whole world didn't all of a sudden come crashing to a halt, threatening to crack apart at the pieced together seams. We'll walk as a family to the hardware store to buy hook-and-eye locks for the doors.

Updated to add: Chris found Ben down the block, around the corner. There were three ladies with Ben, at least one of them had pulled over in her car, seeing Ben walking towards the curb by himself. One was canvassing the houses nearby, and saw Chris coming. She waved him towards where Ben was. My son. Cared for by strangers until we realized he was missing, until we found him.