She lifts Isa to her hip to turn on the music again. This time she chooses Mozart's Allegro from the Violin Concerto #3 in G Major.
"Watch cartoons?" she always asks when she wakes up.
"You watched cartoons yesterday, let's listen to music today."
"I want cartoons." Isa can whip up tears in a split second of denial. Though Isa's sadness is immature, Asli sees that these daily physical frustrations cause her to feel more and more cruelly the forlornness which the human being can never be conscious of without anguish.
"This isn't something to cry about. We are listening to Mozart, can you dance your pretty ballet to this?"
"No. I want Chicks," whines Child. Somehow the Dixie Chicks had become her favorite music, though Asli has no idea how she was exposed enough to request them.
"Mom doesn't have Dixie Chicks, so we cannot listen to it. I am going to make breakfast."
"Dance with Mommy with me?" She asks.
"We can dance later, after breakfast."
The child sighs and moves to play with puzzles. A feeling of dedication encourages Asli to make whole-wheat blueberry waffles and pineapple juice. After cutting up Isa's into small bites and placing them on the little mermaid plate next to the little mermaid fork and little mermaid sippy cup full of cold juice she calls:
"Come angel, breakfast is ready. Climb in your highchair." She drops her head in concentration as if she is doing something official with the Barny laptop.
"Sweetheart, lets eat, it is waffles." Asli says a bit louder.
"I want beans."
"Beans? No, no beans are not for breakfast. You can have beans for lunch. Now we are going to have waffles." She remains calm, but knows she cannot penetrate her child's consciousness; she only regulates from the outside this individual who finds her irrelevant rules an absurd imposition. Why can't she smear blueberry yogurt all over the kitchen floor? It feels good, tastes good and smells good. Why can't she have beans for breakfast?
"No, I want beans." Persistent.
"I just said no beans for breakfast. I made waffles with blueberries and yummy syrup, mmm, you like syrup." She coaxes.
"I want beans."
"There are no beans now." Agitated, these eternal struggles make her impatient and angry. Isabel pads into the kitchen cupboard and comes back boasting a can of Bush's vegetarian baked beans.
"Look, beans! I want beans." Triumphant.
"Insistent tyrant. Fine, beans it is." Defeated Asli must remind herself to find pleasure in serving this small prattling soul who is lost in a fragile and dependent body. She opens the beans.
While completing the dishes from a couple nights dinners and this mornings uneaten waffles she looks down at her water wrinkled hands and pushed up sleeves thinking, I grow old, I grow old, I wear my trousers rolled. Asli had published four books, two of which were literary criticism. After years of traveling, lecturing, and reading she had had a choice of teaching positions when she had fallen pregnant. The child became the heaviest thing ever, to the limit of her strength. She always knew a "child will change your life", but could never have anticipated what it would have done to her psyche. Even when she left the child to another's care for a brief time, she was shackled by thoughts of her. Isabel's existence buried her mother in murky silence. But Asli was living in a house that couldn't be cured of the habit of catching on fire.
"I wonder what Aida is reading now." Thinking of her dearest friend and colleague who is now teaching at Chapel Hill.
"Maybe I should e-mail her my beginning chapters," she mutters to Isa.
"Or I'll give Sadie a call to see if she can meet us after her classes. I haven't talked to her to see how her study of cowboy poetry went last weekend with that very cowboy cowboy."
"Mom, I want more. Mooooooooommmmmmmmm "
"What do you say?"
"Peeeease." By now Asli was half a planet away, suspended in a turquoise sea, dancing by moonlight to flamenco guitar. The child was too young to feel her guilt like a brand, but with this fire, she would.