She says she needs to go to the toilet so I get up off the sand to take her because it’s across the road at the surf club and she has to walk through the car park all by herself and find her way to the female bathrooms up the stairs and negotiate waitresses and drunk people and cars.
I follow her slowly over the dunes, then I lose sight of her.
Inside the surf club she’s nowhere to be seen. Walking into the bathroom the cubicle door is closed but unlocked. A sign to me. Come in. I’m here. I go in and the smell is pungent but her and all her smells are never offensive. Not to a mother. She asks me to wipe her bottom and even though she is six and doesn’t need help anymore her tummy is a bit upset so I help. Still her Mummy.
Thinking I might as well take advantage of being so close to ablutions I sit down myself. She waits for a moment then goes out to wash her hands. Usually we always stay in the cubicles together.
Usually it takes forever.
Years of frustration have evaporated up toilet walls when she wouldn’t let me leave to wash my hands or just pee in the next cubicle. ‘I’m not far away’ I used to think. Sheesh. Just give me a little slack here.
But this time she leaves. I hear the tap go on as she washes both hands properly with soap because she’s thorough like that. The paper dispenser grunts as she wrenches a sheet. She hates having wet hands.
Then, from behind my closed door I hear it.
That’s it. She’s off.
Back down the long corridor, through the drunken crowd and leering surfer dudes, past the waitresses, down the steps, across the road, through the car park and over the sand dunes and back to her friends.
We are not the only two girls in the cubicle anymore.
She isn’t waiting for me.
She doesn’t need to hold my hand.
She isn’t attached to me.
Her friends are more interesting.
My heart slams into my oesophagus and I want to cry.
I should be grateful I can finally pee in private.
But I’m not. I’m overwhelmed that this is the start of me not being the centre of her world.
All her life her shyness has seen her slip between my skirts. And the neediness has annoyed me at times. Don’t be so reticent I have thought, gently pushing her out, which only forced her further into the folds.
Yet now, this night, she’s playing a game in the dunes with her mates in the wildest of beaches and it’s left a small hole in my heart. She’s not looking around. Soon she will not want me to be visible to her. She’ll want me miles away safely not looking, not knowing, not hearing anything. I’ll cramp her style. My skirts will cramp her style. She already hates it when I get song lyrics wrong.
I’ve loved having her unconditional love, when her little hand slips into mine. Yet suddenly her childhood is racing ahead of me.
It’s not mine to know everything about anymore.
She’s not mine.
And slowly she’s riding away from me.
Which is exactly how it’s meant to be.