Empathy can really ruin your day.
That moment that you see someone else broken and then it dogs you until dusk. When is this promised invasion of the body snatchers coming, when we will all be emotionless pod people?
Today, it was the walk to school. All was fine, bar some show scuffing and mitten confusion, then, the sudden knee to tarmac moment. It is the speed a child travels from delight to howling tears, faster than neutrinos. How can the world change so quickly.
The child runs gleefully. Lost in their joy and going where they shouldn’t.
“don’t run on that verge, it is muddy”.
A look away, a look back. the happy child on the slope now gone, a distraught child on tarmac replacing him.
Everything was fine in their world, now all is awful and painful and they want everything to stop.
The drool on your duffle coat as they attempt to breath and howl and cry, a confusion of gasps.
That request to check their knees.
The spluttered yelp that says “NO”, as if there is some shame in their possible wounds or perhaps a terrible reveal in their mind. Are boys worse than girls and seeming to be ashamed that they may have dented themselves?
The utter negativity – suddenly, everything is horrible in their eyes – school, nativity plays, swings, slides and bicycles, life is unbearable until Savlon cools their existential angst (this becomes a less effective cure for the stoop caused by the weight of the world as the years progress. Even Dettol pot pourri loses its potency)
The flicker in your mind that when you do put them back on the ground, one leg will go from under them and it will be a Christmas in plaster.
The saliva starts to dry on the coat, and the salty dampness on the cheeks evaporates.
Now it is only the magnitude of the distress, rather than the fall itself, that is echoing about.
The scarf and coat are hung on the hook, and you see the classroom door close.
Hopefully all forgotten in the child’s mind by the time they start colouring in Henry the 8th, but still shadowing your own head until collection time at 4pm.
Tour dates from Edinburgh to Sydney via New York are here http://www.robinince.com
Brian Cox and I are off to USA next year, gigs in NY, LA, San Francisco and Chicago, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson amongst others
Details of horror story anthology here