Aaron and Amman
Lorna couldn’t meet the doctors eyes as he sat down and opened a folder . If she could avoid his gaze, she could avoid the news. But his demeanour told her all she needed to know.
‘Lorna, I won’t beat around the bush. Its back.’ He leaned forward and started to talk. All Lorna could hear was a death sentence.
‘Really..’ he concluded, ‘now is the time to enjoy being with your family. If you want my advice, just let the people you love look after you.’
Lorna nodded, not trusting herself to speak. More calmly than she felt, she gathered her things and left.
Stoic, Lorna thought, Stoic old Lorna. That’s me.
Later, strolling through Rosalind Park, it hit her. There would be no moments of making peace with her family. Life’s last moments filled with fear and anxiety. What would happen to her son? There were people who might look after him. But who would love him? Care for him?
Oh Aaron she cried, What’s to become of you?
Her knees gave way and she collapsed onto a park bench. There would be no peace for her, only worry. For a son that may never be able to look after himself. A mother’s worry for a child facing more challenges than any child should. Knowing that she would leave him alone in the world.
Sobs shook her body. Not so stoic now. A cold breeze blew past and autumn leaves fell around her, swirls of red and amber washed past.
Lorna turned the gas off and poured water from the kettle into the teapot.
‘You poor dear.’ Gladys said with sigh. ‘You’ve had a rough trot, there’s no doubt. Live every day like it’s your last, I always say.’
Lorna couldn’t recall Gladys saying that. Ever.
‘It’s not me I worry about Gladys. Its Aaron.’
‘Oh, yes absolutely. Him having his disability and all. But he’ll be fine. I’m sure he will be well looked after.’
Lorna frowned at the discoloured tea cosy.
‘I’ll check on him…’ Gladys said, ‘from time to time.’
Maybe you will, Lorna thought, maybe you won’t.
Gladys didn’t get it, didn’t get Aaron, but then people didn’t.
I should knit a new tea cosy this winter. If I have time.
Lorna woke with a start. Her mind was fuzzy from the chemo. Hours on the drip while her body infused the drugs that should extend her life. Her eyes betrayed her, swimming in and out of focus.
‘Aaron,’ she croaked. ‘Aaron…can you get mummy a glass of water please?’
‘Aaron!’ Lorna struggled to push herself upright. Her vision forced into focus. Aaron always came straight away. Swallowing to keep bile down, calling again.
Her small apartment didn’t take much searching. No Aaron. His shoes were gone.
Lorna wasn’t sure where to begin. Aaron had never disappeared before. She didn’t even know where he might be. He had always stayed close. People didn’t understand that about Aaron. He had his struggles. His problems. But he was a good boy. Always stayed near Lorna, or where she told him to be.
She rang Gladys. Gladys was worse than no help. Gladys was at the RSL. Gladys had had one shandy too many.
‘He will turn up. He always does.’ she’d said. ‘But call me if he doesn’t.’ She added absently.
Lorna searched the park, and the cafe where he would buy her tea from his pocket money every Sunday morning. The girl at the counter didn’t remember who Aaron was.
Every Sunday? Earl Grey? No idea.
In desperation, she rang the police station.
That’s all they would say.
Lorna arrived at the police station. She could see Aaron through the front desk window. Smiling and talking to a young constable.
His smile brightened even more. That smile he only gave her. ‘Hello Mommy’ he said, hugging her. ‘I got lost…but Amman found me.’
‘Which man?’ she asked.
‘Amman…his name is Amman…I got lost. But then I could see the lookout…the puppet head..’
‘Poppet Head.’ Lorna said.
‘Poppet Head,’ Aaron continued. ‘I thought I might see our house. I could see all of Bendigo, but not our house. I got scared. But Amman saw me, and asked if he could help. I couldn’t remember our address, so he took me to his house. It’s funny, they sit on the floor. They gave me tea…but it was different to your tea. Then they took me to the police station. Amman is very nice. He told me about how he came to Australia on a boat. But his mum died.’
The young constable came over.
‘The social worker would like to speak to you, but as far as we are concerned, everything is fine.’
Lorna took a sip of tea, nodding to the young constable that had placed it in front of her. The cup rattled slightly as she placed it down in the saucer.
‘So,’ began the social worker, ‘How often did you say that Aaron disappears like this?’
Lorna sighed. ‘He hasn’t… ever.’
‘Mummy was tired and there was no tea’ Aaron interjected ‘She always has tea, but not this time. I tried to find her some.’
‘Lorna, I’m worried that in your current condition this sort of thing will happen again. I’m not going to make any recommendation at this time, but if it happens again, we may have to look at placing Aaron into some form of managed care. Some old age homes are catering to this sort of situation?’
Over my dead body. Lorna thought. ‘I am looking at some solutions for the future.’
‘Now,’ he said, ‘as far as I can tell, this man…umm… Mirzal didn’t do anything wrong, or hurt Aaron, but I have asked the police to look into it. These sort of people have been known to use the handicapped for their…ah…own purposes in other countries. I do know that he is only here on a temporary visa, so if there is anything untoward, we could do something?’ He left the question, and its implications, hanging.
Lorna left, feeling numb. Just wanting to take Aaron home and to wrap themselves into the familiar cocoon of their life.
Lorna started to make herself a cup of tea. Despite the ordeal, Aaron seemed happy. He was humming to himself and smiling while he played. A knock at the door brought her out of her reverie. A man was standing on the porch with boy in his mid teens.
‘Hello,’ the man began, ‘My name is Mirzal, and this is my son, Amman….he..wanted to see how Aaron was. Amman…he asked to speak with him?’
Better make it a pot then. Lorna thought, opening the door.
‘He does not talk.’ Mirzal said ‘On the journey here, he saw many things a child should not see. Our family is gone now. Except me. In Nauru, it was better, and worse. Better, because there was food, shelter. Worse, because we thought we could start our lives. But instead, it was waiting. It is not a life for a child. After his mother died, he just stopped talking.’
‘But, yesterday…when Aaron came to him and asked for help…he spoke. I do not understand it. Not why, but I do know that now he has used words, and he has smiled at another person.’
‘He…’ Mirzal touched his head and gestured towards Aaron, the way people sometimes did to indicate mental illness, but there was no unkindness in his eyes. Lorna nodded.
‘But’ Mirzal continued, touching his hand to his heart ‘also, here..he has much in his heart, perhaps it is this that Amman can see. I ask this of you. That you let them be friends, my son and yours.’
Lorna sat on the park bench. Mirzal sat beside her. Sun filtered down through the trees, cones of light with flecks of dust drifting through it. Aaron and Amman sat playing.
Amman still didn’t say much. Amman reached out and touched Aaron, pointing at the poppet head and shrugged his shoulder. Aaron smiled.
‘Would you like to go up to the poppet?’ Aaron said. Amman smiled back and nodded.
‘I don’t think you should…’ Lorna began, but Mirzal gently interrupted.
‘Amman will look out for him..and if they have trouble, Aaron will call us.’
As the two boys walked off towards the poppet head, Aaron called back ‘Perhaps Amman and I will see our house this time!’
‘They will look after each other. The boys. They will look after each other, and I, them.’ Mirzal said, passing her a cup of tea. He had bought a china cup for her. He was using the lid of the flask for his cup.
The afternoon sun fell on the two boys walking up the hill. She could see green buds emerging on the oak trees in the park.
She fancied that she might see spring. She took a sip of the tea. The sound of Aaron’s laughter drifted down on the breeze.
Maybe I’ll see autumn.