By Jen Sammons

February 26, 2018


The instant I pull into the gas station, he starts screaming, starts pummeling the back of my seat with his gray and green Velcro sneakers. Leave me ALONE! he screeches. Go AWAY! I don’t WANT you!

I slide into a parking spot and turn around. My new son’s cheeks are flushed with heat, beads of sweat glistening on tendrils of soft curls at his hairline. He swats at the air near my face, but his eyes are wide, searching.

I unbuckle his car seat harness and pick him up, promising a cool drink— apple juice, or a slushie, maybe. He thrashes in my arms, flinging head and torso backwards while gripping fistfuls of my hair in an adrenaline-fueled vice.

His mouth yells: Get AWAY from me!

His hands plead: Don’t leave me like the others. Don’t let me go.

Inside I sit him on the counter next to the churning slushie machine. Red and blue drink mixes rotate, holding the balance between solid and liquid. I show him how to push the lever, how to fill his cup. You belong with me, I say, gently pressing a paper napkin to his tear-stained cheeks. We stay together.

I scoop up slushie with the spoon end of the red plastic over-sized straw, and he opens his mouth like a baby bird— hungry, waiting.

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