I stand on the porch smoking a cigarette. Huddled next to the wall, thinly veiled shelter from the cold drizzle of an early June rain. It’s 8:30 p.m. and I haven’t eaten dinner. I miss a lot of meals these days. Eat when I absolutely have to. I try to touch base with my stomach, gaging my hunger level. Nada. I’m tired. Worn down. Worn out.

We’re on our own again. My son and I. For two and a half years we were part of a family again. The man he calls “dad” started moving his things out of our home and into his own place yesterday. In the  meantime my kid plays me like a delicate keyboard. He knows exactly which buttons to push. I envision a long summer stretched out before us. Me: trying to keep my head in my work. Him: calling me constantly from across the apartment. “Mommy!” “Mommy!” I trudge back and forth from my desk to his room to repeatedly ask him to come to me if he needs something. Trivial nothings that require no more attention than…my attention.

He’s been sick. Two nights ago I rode with him in the back of an ambulance. He: glazed over, delirious with fever, excessively dehydrated from a day of vomiting and the inability to keep anything down. I sit anxiously with him as he bravely waits out the insertion of an IV. Lie down next to him in the cold, dark of the emergency room. Constantly texting my ex, his “mama” and my ex(?) his “dad.” Calling my parents with status reports. At 1:00 we take a long cab ride home. Two, three towns away. He sleeps most of the next day away as his temperature rises and falls with the tide of Motrin and Tylenol.

Today. No fever. I am vastly relieved. My relief turns to frustration as he becomes needy for a playmate. I have to make money. I have to work. My work has suffered badly in the last few weeks. I was told by my only client that this was the result of “working during an emotional crisis.” Now I have to rework the entire job. My time. My dime. Fix it, make it better, renew their faith in my abilities. My abilities, my job, it’s all we have to keep us going. I refuse to land in that hard, empty place of relying on others to lift me out of my troubles. Financial. Emotional. Mental. I made the decision to stand on my own two feet and keep it together.

I blow out a long puff of smoke, only to have it blow back in my face with a gust of wind. My eyes squint shut. I tap the ashes over the railing and let the cat out with the knowledge that he’ll probably find a dry basement somewhere to spend the night. I can’t blame him. I can’t blame my ex(?) either. It’s hard to live with an energetic 8-year-old who wants constant attention and a mother who can’t always keep her temper in check during the haranguing for a game, a movie together, an hour or so of legos. It seems such a simple request, but I’m tired. Really tired.

I had banished him to his room after he kept badgering me to change the channel on the TV. I wanted to watch House. He wanted anything but. He has his own television, I reminded him. After a few minutes I call into the next room to remind him to brush his teeth before bed and get no answer. My voice gets louder, more insistent. I get nothing back. I give up. Eventually I go to his room to cajole him into his nightly ablutions. He is fast asleep. I turn out the light and grab my cigarettes. Find myself on the porch. Huddled next to the wall, thinly veiled shelter from the cold drizzle of an early June rain.

I stub out the embers in a tiny pool of water that has beaded on the railing. Drop my butt into a bucket filled with sand and glass from the broken front door. My steps are heavy as I make my way back up to our apartment. I quietly close and lock the door. Glance into his room. He is still asleep. His temp was back up a little. Not much. Hopefully, he’ll be back at school tomorrow while I make amends and promises I hope I can keep. I have to work. I have to make this work. I have no other choices.

I search for balance between all that I have on my plate and all that my son needs from me emotionally. I am drained and ready for bed. I hope that the new day brings renewed energy and a release from my frustration as a single mother, trying to cope, alone, again.