This post is written is response to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words. The challenge is not to write a thousand words but to imagine a story behind this picture.

Kayla is waiting for her mother.

Kayla is waiting for me.

I can picture her in the playground, wearing her favourite jeans with Hello Kitty on them, talking to the various characters of the merry-go-round.

I lie still on the bed, wrapped safely in the silence of this room. Unable to move. Every breath feels labored and heavy, as if my lungs are not willing to give me more air. My body is heavy, my mind is heavy. My love for Kayla is what keeps me here, and also what will force me to get up, eventually.

Kayla prefers Winnie-the-Pooh. The first time she saw another kid riding him, she refused to get on the merry-go-round. She stood glumly and sulked in the corner. Later she compromised. Raffy the giraffe is second in line, I think it is because of the colors that match Pooh. Then the cat, who she says is Hello Kitty’s cousin. Tigger is too bouncy, she says, and the green one is an alien frog from outer space called Humphrey. An alien named Humphrey, it always makes me laugh.

Kayla makes me laugh a lot. That is good in a world where there is not much to laugh about. But she also makes me cry. Kayla deserves a life full of brightness and opportunities. Not this dark moldy flat with the occasional cockroach scurrying across the floor. I want to give Kayla everything. But everything is more than I have, more than I can manage.

Kayla doesn’t like Humphrey because she is sure that he landed and scared Piglet. Piglet was surely part of the merry-go-round before Humphrey landed in a noisy UFO, and little shy Piglet ran away and got lost. But how can Pooh manage without Piglet?

I stare at the meandering crack in the once-white ceiling. The crack feels menacing, threatening to spill the ceiling on me. If the ceiling collapsed, if the building crumbled and fell on me, would it all be over? Or would I become a cripple, even less able to provide for my daughter? Sometimes I wish I could disappear. Not become invisible but cease to exist. I close my eyes and wish myself away. Life requires more of me than what I can handle. The love I feel for Kayla a burden too heavy for me to bear. If I was gone I would no longer be responsible for her future success and happiness.

According to Kayla Humphrey has a long nose because he lies a lot, just like Pinocchio. Humphrey told Pooh that Piglet ran away because he no longer wants to be friends with Pooh, but Pooh sees right through Humphrey. Pooh knows that Piglet will be back.

Love can be a burden. Without my love for Kayla I would be weightless and light, able to live my life for me. Now I live my life for Kayla, working three jobs, still unsure that it will secure her the life that she deserves. I’m scared of the sadness and disappointments that await her. Because to love is to carry the loved one’s sadness inside you like a heavy piece of solid rock that pulls you to the ground and chokes you. I cannot bear the thought of Kayla’s heart broken. I cannot bear the thought of Kayla thinking she is worthless or that life is pointless. Give me any burden to bear, but release me from carrying Kayla’s sadness, because it is the worst pain I know.

When I arrive at the playground Kayla leans against the merrry-go-round, looking disappointed. She gives me an indignant look and does not say anything.

“I’m so sorry I’m late sweety but I…” I cannot think of a good excuse and leave the rest of my sentence hanging in the air, forlorn and meaningless.

Kayla cannot maintain her stare. Her face brakes into a wide grin and she rushes towards me and throws herself in my arms.

“Mommy, I’m sure I saw Piglet today” she squeals excitedly. “He was hiding behind the corner watching us. One day he will come back and expose Humphrey for the liar he is.”

Humphrey. My mouth stretches at the mention at the name.

“So what happens then?” I ask. “Will Piglet take Humphrey’s place in the merry-go-round?”

“No, Humphrey needs a place too. He can stay for a while. But we need to help Humphrey fix his UFO, so that he can fly home again. His family is missing him.”

For some reason the thought of Humphrey’s family gives me a serious bout of the giggles.

Kayla looks affronted.

“This is serious,” she says in a solemn voice. “The galactic navigation micro-chip is malfunctioning and the supersonic speed accelerator is acting up.”

I double up with helpless laughter while Kayla shakes her head disapprovingly.

But I cannot help it. Nobody makes me laugh like Kayla does.