“You risked a lot on that
“Yeah. I did.”
Not even telephone noise. That was
as close as it ever got to sympathy. There was nothing more to say.
I was a quiet, reserved person who
invested her life in caring for others. With determination and strength.
Especially for those I loved no matter how or why the need. I mothered, I
mentored. I defended the dumb, the unthinking, the innocent. I’d done this
long enough to know that everyone’s hurts are real— that each pain has an
honorable reason to be. Then I gave this all away.
A fifth of a box of bow-tie
Last year, horizons tilted and
disappeared. Mercury ran off the backs of all the mirrors and ate the air. And I
raced so far into the forest that my skin deserted my body and I didn’t
Frozen corn tortillas. 99
There I heard the voices that
loved to hate me. Of anxious, bastard children I thought I’d shed. Hairless,
dirt-toed, unvaccinated, elbowing strangers, each arguing with the same
demanding, wet scream. They’d grown so strong over the years. They would not
leave my head.
I bought drugs so I could dress in
peace. When that volume gradually, finally receded I began to pick out syllables
enough to form words. Then sentences. And slowly some questions. But they stayed
boxed inside my head where the only answer was “I didn’t know. I didn’t
Was I wrong? How to decide? Should
Sea salt. Bay leaves.
I thought I would ask some
friends. Among that porcelain teacupful, I chose a poet, a confidante, and a
sister—none a relative. Ones whose open eyes I’d sometimes noted.
An almost-full bottle of Orange
must work to define our individuality and then feel good about it,” confidante
said. “If we are even partially composed of (or defined by) the will or
opinion of others, we will ultimately lose our way and become vulnerable and
frail. Once you can reflect your own wonderful uniqueness, you will draw others
who can only be appreciative and steadfast, whoever they are. As much as I abhor
trite phrases like ‘no pain, no gain’… ”
Candy canes in a ribbon.
Soymilk dated July last year.
would you like to live?” sister said. “It’s not what you don’t have, it’s
what you can and should have; all there for the taking… ”
Half a candle smelling like sea
kelp. Wooden matches.
A year ago, a year ago today we’d
going on here? Are we all right?”
One gentle smile.
do you think? What do you feel?”
did this happen? What can we do?”
never imagined it would be this way. I never imagined …”
What happened next? The space
between looked like a naked stranger. If
you can’t return, you can’t stay. Not like that. Not where words have turned
A muffin pan.
A year running from anger. An
itching, irritating, drunken endless year. All the wrong bandages and expenses.
Move. Help your mother. You scare her.
Move again. Become your children’s
child. You confuse them. They demur.
The one who stayed was always in
the corner. Answered the phone but not the wrong questions. Always answered the
you hear yourself?” he would say.
‘Don’t,’ hear that?”
When I could no longer say those
words, I could not swallow either. A gorged heart lodged in my chest, my
stomach, my throat.
There was nowhere else to go but
to eat, please.”
A series of the smallest steps.
go there? Did you sleep?”
And there were bad decisions. A
gun in the trunk of the car doesn’t last long and isn’t very entertaining.
And thieves of privacy soon look ugly, even to themselves. Did I really have to
learn those words? Was I so reckless about choices?
He stayed in the corner. “I care
is my corner? But I hate this corner. I don’t own this corner. It’s not even
where you are. Small steps. Breathe. Write. It’ll take time. I care about you.”
I began to write away the shadows
in the corner. And
then I admitted it.
Two corners make half a room.
Having two perspectives. Not a finished shelter but countable steps out of the
Between the corners is what was
risked and what was gained.
The box of Sunmaid raisins will
still be good next year.