The Foster Home

Unhung paintings stood stacked against a metal shelf. Inside four walls on Rue Mariette. The easel. Tubes of acrylic and oils. Boar bristle brushes. Black electric guitar in its case.

Petunias in window boxes. Narrow pine shutters. A brick and tile-roofed two-story house. Up six stone steps: brown ochre door. Daughter, you live in a foster home under public curatorship.

Age forty-one. Short-cropped hair: greying. White T-shirt. Baggy, cerise jogging pants. Running shoes, laces untied. St. Mary’s Hospital Center psychiatric outpatient. Learning disability and anxiety disorders.

Aside from the furniture, which is minimal. Brightly striped wool carpets. Television. Blaring boom box.

“Hi Marisa,” I say. “I don’t belong here,” you say. “I am too young to live here! I want my own apartment!” Am I patient with you? “Don’t drink Coca-Cola. Eat more fruit. Wear deodorant!” Don’t want to snap.

Repeated rituals of domestic life: morning tea and bagels. You had owned a house, married. The smell of fresh-cut grass and purple lilac. Hyacinth. Shrub rose. And kitchen garden.

Twelve years ago, not long after your third child’s birth. Between the marital friction of raw grief and joy of childbirth, which produced a wife’s breakdown. Youth Protection Courts. Divorce Court. Your husband obtained custody: two daughters, five and three. Five-month-old son.

I supervise your children’s visits in my downtown studio. “Owing to potential, accidental, harm to children.”