Every time her son was in trouble, Helen’s C-section scar began to throb. Today was one of those days.
Helen never knew what the specific trouble was. When her son was ten, there’d been the fall from a tree while Gunther was at camp in the Poconos. Four years later, the throbbing had indicated a lock-down at his high school in Raleigh. The last time this had occurred, Gunther was a junior at college up north. He’d stepped on glass and needed to have the shard surgically removed at the local hospital.
Gunther, now married to his college girlfriend, and working in pharmaceutical sales, traveled frequently for work. Was he on a plane right now? She shook the thought from her head.
Scratching the inflamed area, she excused herself from the biology class she was teaching at the University. In front of the mirror in the faculty bathroom, she lifted her shirt to see an angry thick line that resembled a frown. She thought about how kangaroos carried their young in pouches. At times, Helen felt like she was still carrying Gunter around with her. When going through one of his depressions, she could feel his world sinking. Was this one of those times? After pulling out anti-inflammatory cream from her bag, she rubbed on a thick layer, then checked her phone. Nothing.
Not that Gunther would call if something was wrong. Since marrying Tina, there’d been fewer phone calls. Disagreements began with the insistence of having both a rabbi and a priest at the wedding of her only son. This led to Gunther taking the side of Tina, cancelling the big wedding, and getting married without family to witness the important day. Helen would never have another opportunity to see her only child get married.
Apparently, Tina thought Helen was too involved with her son’s life, and had spent the last two years doing anything she could do to untether their bond.
Still, she always knew. Helen’s body didn’t lie. Sure, Tina could go ahead and tend to Gunther. It was one less thing to deal with in her busy day. There were tests to grade and errands to run. Let his wife heal those wounds in her son; it was Tina’s job now, not hers.
Helen checked her phone one more time, hoping for a message from Gunther. She ignored the scar, then headed back to her class. There were other young people who needed her. They waited for Helen in the classroom down the hall. She headed toward the biology lab, her pouch-like middle aching the entire way there.
Maureen Sherbondy’s most recent book is Lines in Opposition (Unsolicited Press, 2022). Her work has appeared in Upstreet, Calyx, Feminist Studies, The Oakland Review, and other journals. Maureen lives in Durham, NC. http://www.maureensherbondy.com