She calls from the top of the jungle gym.
Look at me, look at me now.
I’m feeding the baby mashed fruit from a tube and still only have two eyes. Sure, I say, as I try to squeeze just the right amount of yellow goop into his half-open mouth.
Look at me now! She is yelling. I need you to take my picture. For my Insta.
I turn and see my mother, perched like a crooked bird on the side of the gym. While I take the shot, a yellowish river of fruit runs out of the baby’s mouth, past the bib and into a crease in his jumpsuit.
While the baby sleeps, I count the likes on my mother’s Instagram feed. Ticking up much more slowly now than when she started. Nothing to cool her smoldering need for attention. I need to update my profile, she says, then leaves without saying goodbye.
She comes back a week later, all spruced up. She kisses me, leaving a line of purple on my cheek. For moment, we look related. The baby starts wailing. He is afraid of my mother’s new technicolor curls. If this works, I guess her followers must be nothing like us.
Look at me now she says to the camera, then focuses on the baby’s upside-down mouth as the fear of her bright reds and purple is painted across his face. I pick him up from the stroller—tell her no when she asks to take one more shot.
When the baby gets sick I tell her not to come, we don’t want her to catch something that may be a problem at her age. Her rusty pump laughter lingers a long time on my phone.
We see her again—once the fever is gone. Against the blue sky, her bright hair looks good. The hot air balloon she’s in is soaring. The baby and I both fixated. On the computer screen. On the bright swirling pattern of the hot air balloon. On how much she is willing to risk for a few extra likes.
He places a gooey finger on grandma’s face and laughs with his whole body when the balloon takes her away.
Look at grandma, I say. The baby tries to catch her again, but grandma’s always too fast. When the monitor turns bright blue, I sit for a while—waiting for her to return. The baby’s lost interest. The sky is so bright it’s hypnotic. I breathe in the absence of clutter. Only the path of the fingermarks reveal she was ever there.
Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri is a Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer, recently relocated to Norway. Her most recent work is featured or forthcoming in Washington Square Review, Atticus Review, Grist, Room Magazine and North Dakota Quarterly. You find her at www.hegeajlepri.ca.
Show Hege some love via PayPal at jakobsen-lepri(at)rogers(dot)com.