The phone call

14 février 2010


It was only a couple months ago, when a mother made me cry.

It is my last day here, at work. I count trucks, I answer phone calls, I fill in charts. It’s pretty boring, but there is a pay check at the end of the month. 

I’m not really good at keeping a job. Not that I don’t work well. I show up, I do as I’m told. I blend in, I’m invisible. I guess I’m so good at making myself forgotten, people don’t miss me, once I’m gone. The temp agency already called me this morning. I’m to fill in for a maternity leave in a billing department, for a big insurance company. It’s a little closer to home, it’s slightly better paid, I think they did me a favor. No client of theirs ever complained about me. 

Except two months ago, when I cried at work. I cried at work, I cried in the subway, I cried in my car coming back from the supermarket. 

I don’t know how it started. I don’t know why. I have an older daughter, she’s seven, she’s never been a problem. She’s like me I guess, she’s nice and polite and behaved. Her grades are good, her friends are average, her teachers probably forget her from one year to the next.

My son, he’s different, he is smart and beautiful. 

My son, I don’t know what’s wrong with him. 

Until he was three, I never had any complaints. His nanny was a nice woman who looked after him and two little babes. He was the oldest, maybe he ruled over them a little. I guess he didn’t play much with them, they were too little. Maybe her house was his kingdom, and it was normal there, it was normal that he was better than adults at chess and other old board games. When you play on a board, your head is bent down. You don’t have to look at the person facing you.

His first year of school, it was hard. Not a week went by without having to defend him in the headmistress’ office. My son is not a mean child, my son is not violent. He would never hit girls. He would never refuse to cooperate. He would never know how to manipulate other children.

I couldn’t hear it, I refused the words, the way she looked at me with her silents questions and judgements. 

I do not hit my son. I am not hit on by my husband. 

That’s what she insinuated, with her silences and her watery eyes goggling me with annoyance. She started to hate me, and my child, and the problem we created in her school.

I, I was beyond hating her, for the guilt, the pain, for the words.

Slowly, I realized that all her words weren’t lies, and that my son wasn’t the same boy I knew than the one that went in her school. And I got depressed and lost my job, and I started temping.

Yet I hoped things would be better this year. We still wouldn’t take him to see a specialist, but he started karate. He was taught all about honoring his opponents and respecting others.

Then the letters started coming, from different mothers, one, two, three… Every week, a different one, for a different girl. This time, the words weren’t said to my face, they were written to the system, photocopied to me and sent by postal mail. Angry incoherent words read by many eyes, that burned my heart with pain and guilt and shame. 

And the last one came…

The last letter was a work of art. A work of worry, with well chosen phrases as precise as a scalpel. There was no anger, no confusion, just cold worried facts, a reminder of the law and a warning : once more, and we’ll go to the cops. 

It was a letter telling the story of a boy who hit a girl, a boy who put his hands around her neck and squeezed. A boy who manipulated other kids : you hold her like this, and I’ll hurt her. The words told the story of a horrible stranger and yet the stranger was my son. 

Your son needs help, your son must have the help he needs, your son deserves to become a balanced young man who respects girls.

That’s what the mother said, with her chiseled ways.

The system took over. 

Nowadays, every week, he sees a child psychiatrist, a psychomotor specialist, a teacher for « special kids », he’s had his IQ tested and had a whole psych evaluation.

My son is smart, very smart, but until two month ago, my son didn’t know how to play. He didn’t understand how kids in his class played, what were their rules, he felt excluded and he hit them.

Today, my son runs to school and laughs. There is still work that needs to be done, but already he is a changed little boy who know what it is to be carefree and to have friends. Already, he is on the path to freedom and happiness. 

Today, I can breathe, I can relax. And maybe who knows, people from my next job, they’ll see me and remember that I am there. Maybe they’ll want me to stay a while.


This mother, she made me cry. I think she saved my boy.

But I will never tell her. She tried to call me just now. I recognized her phone number from her letter, it hurt me so much I know it by heart, and I hung up on her. 


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