Entangled

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Once upon a time there was a lonely couple who very much wanted a child. Each month they held their breaths and dreamt of a tiny kitten of a thing that might latch onto existence, cling to life rather than slipping away into not-life, both there and not there until a test read one line or two; yes or no. But it was always no; no; no. She went to work and fielded emails from companies that wanted to build on sites with fragile ecosystems, rare frogs or invasive weeds. She wanted to be building something herself. He went to work and tweaked code and soldered wires and tried to build a computer that could crunch ones and zeros simultaneously, could harness the quantum world to do great things. He wanted great things for himself. But it was no; no; no. Until one day it wasn’t.

The couple clung to each other and to the precious thing unseen inside her. It didn’t feel real. They tried to remember that it might not stick, to not hang everything on this tiny promise of life. But their spirits were so high they could not help but risk a fall.

In accordance with their unshakable hope, things went well. She blossomed. Her belly grew. They laughed when she, the ecologist, craved not chocolate or pickles or ice cream but salad –rocket and lamb’s lettuce with tomatoes; spinach and Swiss chard and kale, raw or steamed or baked into chips; romaine crisply quartered and tossed with croutons. He made her bowls of greens drizzled with balsamic, hard boiled eggs and nuts rich in omega-3s: brain food for the baby. Walking through a field she went crazy for dandelions. He started to pick edible weeds from the bank beside the railway line on his way home from the university: chickweed, sorrel, nettles and salty purslane with its tiny yellow flowers. She taught him what to pick. They held hands, pants rolled to the knees, and bathed her swollen ankles in tide pools to gather sea asparagus at sunset.

By the end of summer she was as round and rosy and heavy as a prize-winning pumpkin. Labour was a relief, at first. But the pains felt wrong to her – not the clean, white burn of exercise but an angry red pain of injury and fear. And it went on for hours, more than a day, without sign of stopping. In the end there were calm-faced doctors noting a crash in the baby’s heart rate, no room for panic between waves of pain but only a chance to breathe and sign the papers for emergency surgery. In the end a little girl was released by scalpel, too silently he thought, as he clung to his wife’s limp hand. A beauty, the nurses said. Look at that hair: blond. And long. An angel, they said.

But. There had been a lack of oxygen, the doctor said. They whisked her away. Mom slept. Dad fretted. Little Purslane was put on ice to ease her transition into the world, and settled into intensive-care. She would stay there, silent and still.

Each day he let Purslane’s tiny hand curl instinctively around his finger. The hands on the clock ticked forwards but time did not seem to move on. He was both on a knife’s edge of worry and bored, simultaneously, for long hours. He felt guilty for the boredom, or for the rude intrusions of hunger or thirst. His mind wandered. He daydreamed of another daughter, somewhere in a parallel universe, her fate tangled up with Purslane’s. While Purslane stayed unconscious, still wrapped in womb-like sleep, this other, entangled child was awake, he thought, having first laughs and first cries and latching on for first feeds. He became obsessed. A photo-negative vision of this other daughter filled his dreams: she was raven-haired, in a same-but-different room, a father like him by her side, but dark-skinned, white-haired. In his waking hours he came to believe that if he could take the full measure of his daughter – weigh her tiny body, chart the whorls on her fingertips, count her strands of golden hair – then the knowledge would unravel her connection with the far-off child who tied up her consciousness. Untangled, Purslane would wake. He measured, while his wife fretted, healed, and sang songs to their sleeping beauty.

After a week Purslane woke. They shook with joy at her first cry. They held precious Purslane, who was perfect, but for eyes that couldn’t see. It can happen, the doctor said. The lack of oxygen. In the end they were lucky, he said.

She kept singing the same songs to her baby, and spent the days walking through the fields by the railway tracks, the bumpy stroller ride a soothing sleep-maker. He went back to work, inspired by thoughts of entangled twins to try new combinations of code, fresh qbits and creative connections, to crack an old problem. Time passed quickly now, the clock’s hand speeding. Purslane’s golden hair grew longer and her mother spent long mornings brushing and braiding. First steps. First words. First struggles to walk in a seeing world.

When Purslane was four she asked her father why his hair was white. He didn’t understand. She told him that the girl with the black hair – her twin, she called her – sometimes gave her the information that her eyes could not, and told her about the colours and world around her. Her father, she knew, was dark-skinned and white-haired. Why? she asked, dark eyes peering through him. Why?

About the Author: 
Nicola Jones is a freelance writer living in the mountains of Pemberton, BC. She is a mother of two, not-entangled children.