The country is still and subdued, as if standing warily on some imaginary brink. I have taken the bus through the night, almost alone in the murky silence, with only the hourly newsflash blaring eerily through the overhead speakers. Weighed down now with the hot humid air and the searching stares from the old men playing chess in the light of a streetlamp, we are circling the football stadium, you striding purposefully ahead and me dragging my pointed slippers through the dust. We are happy, so happy to see each other, but we are not happy.

Later we lie on the floor in the living room. Your mother's wheelchair is still in the room - the high backed chair of a complete invalid. As we lie here, she is lying in the hospital, doggedly refusing to give up what life is still left in her. Do you want to be free of her, for her to be free, or do you want to hold on to whatever is left of the woman you love in that motionless, pale figure? You don't say, and I don't ask.

I never thought I would see you cry. It shocks and frightens me, but does not disgust. If anyone has a right to cry, it is you - for your mother who is beginning to lose herself in her illness, for the love that you could not take from me or give back, for the life you have been denying yourself always. For the waste. Of time, of strength, of feeling.

The sweet scent of the baby I held for the first time only yesterday is still sharp in my mind. He was so tiny that I panicked - what looked like a perfect miniature of a human being in his mother's arms seemed a disjointed collection of possible accidents in mine. I loved him but couldn't wait to give him back. So it is with you, as I look at you in the dark, hear your voice that never falters, smell your smell that never changes. You are in need of protection, and I cannot protect you.

How I wish that you were mine - my child to nourish and make strong, to worry for and comfort. If only, I think, If only I had received you when you were small and malleable, I would have made you happy. I would have made look at yourself and see you as I see you: strong and warm like a freshly baked loaf. But it is too late for me to save you, too late for you to need saving. Too late for us to build whatever it was that we could have built, had things been different between us. But I offer nothing, and you don't ask.

The title of this node is also a loose translation of a novel by the Israeli writer Yehoshua Knaz.

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