Five weeks after his second daughter was born, Jason couldn’t take it anymore. He slipped out of the house in the middle of the night, put his keys in the ignition, and drove away. He didn’t leave a note.
And what would I have said? Jason thought, rubbing his eyes as he drove. That I suck as a father? That I almost slapped Emma yesterday? That I want to shake Jasmine until she quits screaming? I can’t do this. They’re better off without me.
Jason purposely forced himself not to think of Princess, of the fact that he was leaving her alone, sleep-deprived with a two-year-old terror and a colic-ridden infant. She’s never going to forgive me. He shook his head, pushing thoughts of his wife and children further from his mind. It doesn’t matter. I’m never going back.
In the last month, Emma had hit the terrible twos with a vengeance: shredding toilet paper, breaking Jason’s childhood collection of model cars, taking off her clothes in public, throwing her shoes, spitting at strangers. Just yesterday, she had run away from Jason, straight toward a busy street, laughing at him even as he dove to save her from an oncoming car. In the ensuing rush of adrenaline, he had lashed out at her, screaming. She had continued laughing until he had grabbed her roughly by the shoulders, fully intending to slap some sense into her. Only when her eyes had bugged out with fear had he realized what he was doing. He had leapt back in terror, stunned by his own actions.
What if I can’t stop myself the next time?
Emma had truly been hysterical after that, wailing and shrieking with fear. Jason had pulled the little girl into his arms, cradling her, consoling her, apologizing for frightening her. And then he had cried, too, silent tears falling on her auburn curls.
He shook the memory aside. There won’t be a next time.
Then there was Jasmine. The little girl barely slept for more than an hour at a time, waking frequently with what the doctors now suspected was colic. Her cries, so thin and pitiful, had initially touched his heart. But when he had returned to work, sleeplessness and fatigue had kicked in with a vengeance. Jason’s hours were long. Business at his auto body shop was down due to the economy; his lousy attitude only made things worse. There was no relief from the stress. His nights were fragmented beyond recognition. Jason just wanted Jasmine to shut up and act like a normal baby, to act like Emma had when she was an infant.
What was wrong with Jasmine? What was wrong with him for not caring? Jason loved his new daughter in theory, but he didn’t feel connected to her at all. He envied Princess. After carrying the baby for nine months, she genuinely seemed adore the little screamer.
The only thought that Jason had been able to muster tonight, his sleep once again broken, was that Jasmine needed to shut the hell up. Now. He had stormed into her room furious, ready to grab her from her cradle and wring her little neck – anything to stop the screaming – when the lunacy of what he was doing struck him.
I’m losing my mind.
Shaking, he had walked back into bedroom he shared with Princess, picked up his keys from the nightstand, given his wife a silent peck on the cheek, and walked out.