When I squeeze my eyes real hard at the photograph of Mamma’s wedding day, the one with her mouth wide open, I can see it—the sad something Mamma managed to hide from the world.
The air had grown still, and the window gleamed. She wished she was flying onto a bank of ice, wished that baby would appear and scream with hunger, and she’d hold him close and sing him a simple song.
She has been here before, on the same baby blue tile, stroking my hair, preaching the hollow words of God’s will. Thankfully she isn’t doing that yet. I don’t believe in God—not for a while now. Today she is humming.
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.
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