Over The Edge

Simon is being difficult. Mama’s nerves are frayed. She has problems of her own; there comes a time when children are a nuisance even to their mother. And that’s the last straw, she doesn’t feel like a good mother, and she wishes her own mother would take her in her arms and hold her like a small child.

Simon starts to break things. Starts to throw things on the floor and shout. Mama picks things up here and there and tries to soothe him, but she cannot calm him down because she cannot even calm herself down. Simon shouts like a wild banshee, Mama says, though Simon never asks who or what a wild banshee is. Mama wants to scream like a wild banshee, too, but mothers do not scream because mothers are mothers, and mothers always know what should be done.

In the blink of an eye, Mama no longer knows. What should be done, that is. Her hand flies across the small face all on its own, drawing five fingers over his soft skin. It stings Simon, and he falls silent. He stops. Mama also stops and in slow motion watches the hand that slapped him somehow return to her body. “Over the edge,” says Mama, somewhat desperately, more to herself than anyone else.

Simon goes to his room, but Mama stands there, frozen. She is no longer angry, not even sad anymore. She is helpless, and this is something no self-respecting mother ever wants to admit. She would rather be little Simon, or better yet a little Simone. She would be able to deal with the burning on her face, but she does not know what to do with the funny hand that so violently escaped her.

Mama knows that she should not hit a child. Mama knows how a slap hurts. Mama knows because she, too, was once a child. Mama knows how heavy the word “sorry” is and how it fills the ears that hear it. And yet how little it sometimes means, and that’s why you shouldn’t say it too fast.

Mama says it that night, but for real only after several years have passed. When Simon is already a big boy, bigger than her, and his own hand is about to fly out uncontrollably. Then Mama feels the time is right. And it is. Then “I’m sorry” slips easily out of her mouth and Simon becomes small again, and suddenly they are the same size. Small and large at the same time, small enough to know how it hurts and big enough to know how to steady that hand. Mama hugs Simon and he doesn’t try to escape, even though he is so big that it is not cool anymore to hug your mother. And Simon says: “I’m sorry, too.”

By Lili Potpara
translated, from the Slovene, by Kristina Zdravič Reardon

Kristina Zdravič Reardon is a PhD candidate in Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at the University of Connecticut. After earning an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Hampshire in 2010, she was awarded a Fulbright grant and spent a year in Ljubljana translating fiction. Her work has been published in World Literature Today, Words Without Borders, and Slovene Studies.

Lili Potpara is a Slovenian writer and translator. In 2002, her collection of short stories, Zgodbe na dušek (Bottoms up stories), won the Prize for Best Literary Debut from the Professional Association of Publishers and Booksellers of Slovenia.