August 20, 2016

Page 165

It became dangerous to leave her unguarded for even a minute, for her physical drive was like sand issuing from a fathomless hourglass, like time: it flowed from her in a constant stream which we fought to channel and contain, spilling hazardously over when the telephone or a knock at the door occasioned a moment of neglect. I recalled remarks I had carelessly heard other parents use, phrases like she never stops or she's on the go all the time, and pondered what they actually meant. An instant's distraction would find my daughter inching over the top of the stairs, pulling electrical leads that were about to bring the kettle or iron down on top of her, delving into the rubbish. She husked records from their sleeves and shredded letters in their envelopes with the speed of a harvesting peasant. She aimed herself at bottle sod bleach or hot cups of tea, trundling across rooms like a slow but deadly missile and changing course only if someone actually went and stood between her and her target. Suddenly our life was like a drama in which  a bomb is being disabled against the clock. We were, all at once, the slaves of time, and we kept our daughter to the kitchen so as better to contain her ticking, to contain her power to destroy. Only when she was upended, neutralized by sleep, did the ticking stop; interludes which washed swiftly and soundlessly past us like flood waters, bearing away the pleasure of books or conversation too quickly for us to do more than grab at them. 

- A Life's Work by Rachel Cusk 

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