We were waiting, eagerly, to see how the nine year old performed in this first great ritual of adolescence and belonging. In the shadowy dreamscape of that terrifying world beyond our waking control, there were four or five of us, watching and waiting. The boy leaned forward, concentrating, and trapped the tiny yellow and green parakeet fluttering around him in a quick swipe of his child-sized hands. He was lightning fast at that bit. He then hesitated, met my eye and I wondered whether he had learned his great adult lesson yet. Then, in a sudden decisive moment, he snapped the bird’s neck, putting an end to the pitiful beating of wings against his fingers. It made a noise like a No. 2 exam pencil breaking in half. I closed my eyes and looked away when it first happened before a wave of misery washed over me-and then I wept. Not for the bird, which was doomed to vulnerability and human apathy, but for the boy, who had lived up to our expectations. He saw me weeping and started to cry softly himself, not quite understanding what we wanted. I held him and we wailed together, I for loss of innocence, he for confusion. The other dreamshadows faded away, chastising me-you do not give in to care, it destroys you.
What a memory to snooze my alarm to, to brush my teeth after, to live with.