I don’t remind him that three of his siblings died as babies. My mother-in-law relied on elders who relied on incense and prayer to cure everything from fever to diarrhea. No Tylenol. No doctor with a special nighttime number. No phone to call her.
Mom is still asleep. These days she sleeps a lot. A nurse comes in three times a week to help, but mostly it’s just me and Dad looking after her. My sister thinks our mom’s bedroom smells like death and refuses to go in, but I know the real reason Claire won’t go in to see Mom. It’s because she’s embarrassed.
Today she wears deep plum nail polish, and when we leave for school I notice she is wearing her hair over to the side, exposing the milky-white flesh of her 12-year-old neck. I want to cover it up, but I don’t say anything.
The old dog puts her head in my lap, and I’m glad we don’t have to speak.
I pick up the crumpled note to my mother and unfold it. I used to write letters to her all the time when Benji was a baby.
They would’ve worn silk kimonos if they were older. Instead, they wear barrettes, the color of pearl, the silver clasps cleaned with toothpaste by Jun’s mother…
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