Microfiction by Daniel Rondeau
from J’écris parce que je chante mal
At the start, you’ll drool, make funny sounds, and be forgotten everywhere we go because, at the start, no one knows how to keep everything for themselves. We’ll be filled with wonder at your eyes, your foot that fits in my mouth, your clenched fists, ready to defend yourself.
Then you’ll be walking, you clumsy pup. First, towards me, then towards others. In the folds of your brain, you’ll jot down the words you’ll use in more or less the right places at first. Outside, you’ll stare for hours at spiders and puddles and you’ll tell me all about it, because I’ll have forgotten. Often, as you sleep, I’ll watch you, happy and worried. Later, without telling me, you’ll learn your times tables, your country’s history, stupid songs. I’ll pretend to be annoyed when you rebel against your teacher. You’ll talk about your friends like I know them. I’ll say, “Who’s Marie-what’s-her-name?” and you’ll tell me, disgusted, to forget about it. You’ll mutter under your breath that I can be a real jerk sometimes. You might have a point.
Then you’ll not want me to see your butt anymore and you’ll lock your bedroom door, putting up a “No Adults” poster. I’ll swear I find the whole thing idiotic, even though I’ll envy your own little kingdom where your worries seem very small indeed to me from the outside. Your arms, your nose, your ears will grow too quickly and you’ll look like a monkey for a while. Your mother will still think you’re gorgeous. I won’t be so sure.
Between two catchy songs, I’ll tell you the story of my life and you’ll yawn. You’ll turn my hair grey fooling around with your friends. You’ll grow a head taller than me and you’ll wonder what we were all eating in 1969 to end up so stunted. You’ll be as brazen as an alley cat, and you’ll stop coming home at night. You’ll get naked and fall in love and, eyes swollen, you’ll slam the doors when you storm back home. I’ll tap you awkwardly on the back like I’m scared of burning myself and draw useless tiny circles with my hand. You’ll put a second-hand plaster on the wounds and cover the whole thing with odds and ends of hope spread a little too thin. Then you’ll drop out of school and leave a home that you’ve outgrown. I won’t cry until you’ve disappeared at the end of the street.
One day I’ll come round to your place. I won’t stay long, I swear. I’ll watch you on the quiet and I’ll see myself in the slightest little thing, in how you screw your face up when you’re concentrating, in the same expressions I use. That day when I leave, I’ll smile, hold you in my arms a little longer than usual, and you’ll be dying for me to let go. I’ll suppose you know just how much I love you.
So there you are. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bit or two. You can tell me all about it.
The books say today you’re the size of a sesame seed. Soon your heart’s going to start beating. That’s not bad already. The rest can wait.
Translated by Peter McCambridge