Oh crap, she’s doing it again. I can’t take this anymore. The girls are coming to my place before prom, and the way she’s at it right now, it won’t be over when they get here. She won’t stay in her bedroom, but if I trick her into mine, it might work. I could bring my makeup in the living room, the hair straightener too. Light is better in there anyway. Yeah, I’ll do that.
My dearest child,
I have wonderful news for you and cannot keep it to myself any longer. I will be visiting you no later than next month! I can hardly contain my excitement and have been agitated all morning, driving your father positively crazy.
He surprised me with the train tickets at breakfast. I think he was not sure how I would react, old fool! Of course I want to go see my baby. He keeps saying I should not use this lovely moniker, and it usually upsets me, but today I thought it was the funniest thing and I kissed him when he protested! A loud kiss on the old fool’s cheek. I think he was stunned at first, then happily surprised, although he pretended gruffly to be annoyed by the whole demonstration.
See what you do to us? The prospect of seeing you brought happiness back to this gloomy household.
I am preparing a list of gifts and trinkets to bring you. If there is anything that you would like, do let me know, by all means. I am putting together a box for us to go through during our visit. Photographs of the good old times, some books you may like, and candy of course. I will pack us a picnic, and we will sit on a blanket under an oak and just visit. Your father won’t stay long, I’m afraid. You know how he is. Although we have not discussed the specifics of our trip yet, I am assuming he’d rather go to town. But he will stay for a while and then we’ll have our time together. How is that? I know you will be as excited as I am.
Oh, here comes your sister--just a minute.
Well, the minute turned into hours. She can be so difficult. It’s hard to believe you two are sisters, even for a mother! Ah, she hears me laughing and wants to know what it’s about. I showed her I’m writing to you. She’s gone now at last, shaking her head. She will never understand. Guess what the fuss was about and why she had to keep me that long…
She wanted my honest opinion on the dress she will wear at an upcoming party of some sort. The wheelchair I now use is more comfortable than the previous one—if you remember my letters—but it is also bulkier. Stuck in this apparatus, I avoid moving from room to room. After your father helps me get dressed, he rolls me into the living room, where I have breakfast, and where I prefer to stay. From there I have a vantage point on the comings and goings of the apartment, and also a breathtaking view of the railroad tracks in the foreground, the warehouses behind and beyond, in the background, the off-white mossy mound of the city dump adorned by the constant flurries of seabirds feeding off the refuse.
Your sister needed me immediately, and insisted that I join her in her bedroom. She claimed that the mirrors there are better placed for her to understand “what the fuck you’re trying to say”: I had pointed to the junction between thigh and derriere that no young lady should care to show should she need to bend her waist somewhat forward, which your sister was doing repeatedly to arrange her tights.
She wheeled me down the narrow hallway, and spun me towards her lair. Alas, the chair, suddenly jammed in the door frame, came to an abrupt stop on the threshold, nearly throwing me out. After fitting me back in, she pushed and pulled to no avail. I helped her best I could, only making matters worse. The wood on the door jamb began to give in. We decided to leave it at that, given that we are renting, and that whenever we leave (when that will occur, God only knows), we will need the full refund of our deposit.
We waited for your father to return from work. She began to complain about this “crappy” apartment we had to move in, on the outskirts of this “crappy” city. I silently agreed. It was your father’s idea, after you left us, to change scenery. He meant well.
At some point during our wait, your sister, without warning, tried to climb over me to get inside her room. She frightened me to the utmost extent, and I could not hold myself. When your father returned, after dislodging the chair and sanding the door jamb, he frowned in disgust in my vicinity. Having discovered the source of discomfort, your sister joked that she had “scared the shit out of her” and, for once, helped your father clean the mess. I had rather she stayed out of it, because she made matters more complicated than they were, but she meant well.
Restored to my usual viewing post, I now let my gaze wander out the window. Along the railroad tracks I discern the colorful specks of spring. My soul full of the upcoming visit, memories rush to my senses. Do you remember how I used to braid sweet peas in your golden locks? Those afternoons under the willow, just enjoying the moment--you would sing lullabies to your baby sister. And in the fall, the wild blackberry jam we cooked on long rainy days, using your grandmother’s recipe? Your lovely freckled face all smothered in deep purple… these times will never come again, but they are alive in me, as I know they are in you.
She’s doing it. She’s doing it. I mean, it’s not her fault she’s crippled, right, and it’s hard enough for her, and for everybody, but why does she have to keep moving the stub of her chopped-off arm all the time? She looks like a freaking nutcase, that’s what she looks like. Can’t she tell she’s embarrassing me in front of my friends? Can’t she think about me, just for once? Doesn’t she care about her other daughter?
Thank God Dad is starting to get a grip on the situation.
Your father now, interrupting me. One second.
He asked if I was going to keep writing you, for your sister was having company, and the sight of a mother writing to her daughter seems to annoy youngsters! Would you believe it?
Your father, again.
He talked nonsense, and wheeled me into the bedroom. He says he hopes the train tickets will help. He says I’ve lost my mind. I say he’s lost his heart. What do you say, angel?
There. She ruined the party. No, I’m not selfish. She is. Ten years reliving the second it took for that car to cross into their lane. There’s nothing she could have done. Nothing. Except go on with life. Be there for the rest of her family.
Maybe the visit to the grave, next month, will snap her out of it.