I KNEW something was wrong. I didn't sleep again the night before last, tossed and turned and listened to my pounding heart and kept thinking, why am I so worried about my 18 year old son's future career? We can sort something out. What is the problem? But then I got that call, the one that explains your fear and suddenly everything else pales into a very different sort of perspective because all you want is for them all to still be alive. Just every parents nightmare. I had a call at 9.00am from one of the mother's of the boys inter-railing with my son. There are six of them travelling around Europe together. She said:- "Have you heard?" "No - heard what?" "There's been an incident" Heart stops. Fear. Cold sweats. Hairs up on the back of my neck. "What sort of incident?" "A fight. They all got into a fight in a bar" "Are they all OK?" "I don't know...no...not really" They're in Krakow, Poland. That's all I know. What has happened? Where do you start? Then all her words just merged into a terrifying frenzy of panic:- "one of them has been glassed in the face...eye...blood everywhere... ambulance ...stitches ..police ...four of them have been arrested...detention centre ... assault charges ... no phones ... can't talk to them ...others in hospital... and so on. I called my son. Phone off. I called his father, my ex husband and we kept each other updated all day, tried to piece together what happened and formulate some sort of plan of attack. Jumbled messages came in all morning. I spoke to other parents. Suddenly we had Consul people involved, friends on the ground who were able to find out some information for us and all day I tried not to be sick, tried not to fear the worst. Tried to get a balance between one of the dad's near total lack of concern because everything would be fine, they'd definitely be released to thoughts of "Midnight Express". Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. After a long long day of panic the plan was that his father was going to fly out. Find translators. Speak to the police. See what was to happen next. But at 7pm my ex called me to let me know one of them had been released and that they were proposing to release them all in 35 minute intervals. I called the father of the released boy and told him the news - he hadn't heard and I said "hooray! At least you know he's safe" and he said "I will not be happy until they are all released. They are in this together. They are a team, but thanks for letting me know". Five minutes later he called me back. "Have you heard?" he said. "No. What?". Panic again. "They've all been released". I can't tell you that feeling of relief. It makes you want to cry. Son called 10 minutes later. Sounded absolutely fine. More grown up in fact. Told me about the incident and again it all merged, this time into a blurry haze of relief that everyone is OK. One of his friend's has 26 stitches in his face, but his eye is fine. 26 STITCHES!! Who the fuck glasses people in the face. Despicable. mum, it wasn't our fault....bar..glassed my friend....but then the attacker nearly died because he managed to sever an artery in his wrist with one of the shards of glass...police were fine...they knew it wasn't our fault....we're all OK...what?...dad's coming out!....GOOD ONE MUM!....seriously?....it's all been blown out of proportion...OK I'll call him....no, of course we're not all coming home...we're carrying on...everyone is fine....don't worry....don't worry.... Daughter adds but I only vaguely hear her ..."this might be a good time to tell you that he's had an eyebrow piercing mum"....yes, very good time, don't give a shit, very, very good timing, I will probably care tomorrow, but today (only today), he can cover his entire body in whatever he wants as long as he comes back safely. Sometimes, I really really hate being a mother. You have to wear your heart on the outside most of the time anyway, but at times like this it's as if somebody is slicing it up into little bits. I wish there was a way we could protect them all more effectively. "Here is my arm, my son, wear it well, it will protect you against the dark forces". But you can't (which is probably a relief because we would both look stupid). You just have to hope and pray to something or someone that they will be looked after and then send up little imaginary cotton wool protectors for them all to wear AT ALL TIMES. Be safe. Be safe. Be safe.
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The ongoing drama of navigating single parenting and life after divorce, supported by wine, travelling and friends.