I’m rubbing his belly, counter-clockwise, counter clockwise. He’ s so narrow that my hand practically covers his whole body. He’s contorted, grimacing. His breath smells of leaky batteries.
“Dad…it hurts and it’s like I can’t breathe.”
“I know, I know, here drink a little water and sit up a bit.”
I fluff the pillows in my bed and he sits up.
I rub, counter-clockwise, counter-clockwise.
“That helps, daddy. But when you stop it gets worse.”
“Then I won’t stop.”
“Forever and a pain.”
He smiles a crooked, suffering smile.
“Not like forever and a day but forever and a pain…hah.”
“Does it hurt when you laugh?”
“Wasn’t that funny.”
“It feels less bad, now, dad.”
“Cool. Let’s go back to your bed. Maybe you’ll fall asleep.”
“Can you stay with me? Please?”
We move to his room. I wrap him up cocoon like in his bed and lie down beside him. I continue slow belly massages, counter-clockwise, counter-clockwise.
He suffers these acid bellies regularly. I think, and his pediatrician confirms, that his stomach flora is all out of whack. Over a two year period he had continuous mucous drip from nose and sinuses…until we had his tonsils out.
It’s getting better. He’s on medication that helps. But watching him writhe in pain is worse than pain.
5h15 a.m. While he relaxes, I question myself and everything else.
The last week at school has been bad. He was suspended, repressed, disciplined, called to task. I can feel he is vulnerable.
When I get stressed, I feel it in the back. Maybe he feels it in the belly.
His eyes are closed. He mumbles a few last words before sinking into sleep.
“You’re a great dad.”
I kiss his forehead.
“And you’re a great kid.”
He has a faint, somnambulist smile.