by Maris O’Rourke
He takes the baby out. Alone on the back seat for the first time his son begins to cry. Thrusts his legs out straight and throws his arms wide – like a panic-stricken starfish. A scarlet flush rises with his screams. White knuckles lock onto the steering wheel. It seems further than one kilometre. He would kill for a cigarette. It’s been six weeks since he quit. Finally he stops, kneels, leans into the anxious silence as their eyes meet.
He arrives with the baby. Alone in the garden she is planning the first section of a walk – Te Araroa: The Long Trail – 3,000 kilometres from Cape Reinga to Bluff. She kneels, gathers up her grandson, folds him in a familiar fit. She sways and sings to him – just as she had with his father. His eyes sink to slits that widen in warning if she stops, or shifts, their shared rhythm. Finally, with a long sigh, he flops like a boneless jellyfish. Sleeps.
He takes the baby out. Alone, for the first time since their son’s birth six weeks before, she stands in the silence. Meanders to the garden. Meditates on the basil. Kneels into it. Inhales it. Crushes it. Chews it. Gathers it all. The sun slants onto the bench as she mixes the pesto’s ingredients: fresh basil leaves, grated Romano cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, pine-nuts, garlic cloves and seasoning. As her milk comes in smells rise with her anxiety.