Breakfast time

My son’s stuck in a time loop again.

He thinks I don’t know, of course. He’s never told me that this happens to him (or that he can do this, possibly; I’m not sure which it is.) Maybe I’m a bad mother, if I haven’t proven myself worthy of that trust. But there is only so many times that one can watch their son trudge through a day with bored impatience, anticipating everything you say just a little too quickly and showing no surprise to even the most surprising event, and then come downstairs the next day disoriented but rejuvenated and with a new zest for life and a tendency to get blindsided by even the most predictable things, before one makes the obvious connection.

I don’t think he’s lived through this day too many times yet, because he’s not frustrated by my good morning joke but not surprised by the monster attack being announced on the news. He eats his toast makes polite conversation that sounds just a little too rote until his sister comes down, and he puts his toast down in that distinctive way that make her eyes widen in sudden realisation, a reaction I never would have noticed if I wasn’t looking for it. He told her about three time loops ago, I think, although it might’ve been earlier and I just never noticed the signal until then. I make sure to keep the smile on my face as I push a plate of toast towards her.

The thing on the news is some kind of flying beast, and my son’s eyes don’t leave the TV screen. I expect that calm, solid determination that I usually see in his expression on days like this, but instead he watches it only with a wary sort of calculation. I suppress a sigh – it looks like I won’t be remembering today, then.

The pair exchange glances and look to me. “Hey, mum, I figured we should go to school early. We’ve both got these big tests coming up and – ”

“Yes, fine, whatever. Go.” I know what you’re thinking – obviously they’re off to do something dangerous, and obviously they’re far too young for this sort of thing, and obviously I shouldn’t enable this, and I’m a terrible parent for letting them run off to maybe get themselves killed someday. But I put this to you:

How, exactly, do you expect me to stop them?

As my son heads for the door, though, I almost stop him. I consider, not for the first time, just telling him what I know, what I’ve figured out, and asking him to explain everything, to say where he’s going and what he plans to do about that thing and if his sister is involved and if they at least have help, to put my mind at ease. I don’t, though. Because, logically… I must have done that before, right? In at least one of the countless days that never happened. I must have gotten worried or angry or just fed up with this ridiculous charade and told him that he wasn’t as good at hiding as he thought he was. He has to know that I know, right? And yet, he still chooses to let it play out like this.

Or, perhaps, he told me once. That must have happened, right? I must have been there to help, to patch his wounds and dry his tears and listen to him confess his fears or his worries or his regrets about this big responsibility, about whatever he’s doing out there. He must have told me, at some point, at least once, in one of those nonexistent days. And afterwards, he chose not to tell the me that stuck around. Meaning that I must have given him some reason to keep this secret.

What did I do to him? What did I say to him? How bad a confidante must I have been, that he chooses instead to keep me in the dark?

They leave, they ‘go to school early’, and I start on the dishes. As I wash my daughter’s breakfast crumbs away, the plate slips from my fingers and shatters on the tiles at my feet. I sigh, and turn to get a broom.

Then stop. Pick up all the other dirty plates. And shatter them, one by one, on the tiles.

Then I leave the mess behind me, pull a full tub of rocky road ice cream out of the freezer, and resolve to spend the day eating junk and watching youtube videos. After all, it’s not like it’s going to matter tomorrow, right?