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You could have cried at the birth. You could have kissed your wife’s cracked lips and said: “at last”. You could have been amazed at the pureness of nails, a nostril’s arc, the creases of plump hands gripping like tiny soft-shelled crabs.
In a few more years you could have ended a sentence “…so that’s why rain is wet, Emily.” You could have made up any explanation, as long as you got to say her name.
You could have stood watching at the window (it would have been a bright day) her on a chair, tiptoed, studying the genius of the roadsweeper’s whirling brush.
She would have waved, said: “look, see the clean” and you would have said, “honey, it’s see how clean” and she would have mouthed a silent ‘how’ in a way that made your throat ache.
You could have gone to Aqualand and watched her churning water in bright pink armbands, a plastic bobble in her hair. You could have talked to the father of a son she plays with, shyly splashing.
You would have agreed to meet him later, for a pint and the usual chat about sons and daughters, family colds, the hundredth bedtime reading of familiar Grimm tales. You would have stayed till closing time and thought you had made a friend.
You would have said to your wife that children are maps, an A-Z of Heaven and Hell. She would have said: “be grateful.”
You should have stayed at home today, not be in a car with the heater on, waiting in a layby for your spare phone to ring. You should have remembered how Friday is bad for lovers. You should have said, when you had the chance: “We have no choice now…”
You should have turned off the radio, not listened to the voice telling you, as if it meant nothing at all, that there is snow, coming slowly from the East.