She means to join her family, but she finds she simply cannot. Instead, she sinks into a bedroom chair and allows the hurt to rule. Through the gauzy wrappings of pain, she is aware of her husband and her daughters, but they are far removed from where she finds herself. The bones of her spine register the vibrations elsewhere in the house of wooden stairs beneath stomping feet, but her brain refuses to explore the implications. Some part of her consciousness is aware of conversation, but she experiences the voices as though they are the trills of birds, an exchange of meaning and nuance beyond her comprehension.
She has said, in the past, when asked, that she hopes that when she dies, those she loves will carry on as though she is in the next room.
Perhaps it will be just like this . . . an embrace of pain and a slow growing distance between here and there, a distance she is less and less inclined to span.
Not altogether unpleasant, she thinks, to be ushered into whatever comes next on the warbling music of your life’s birdsong.
On the small table next to where she sits is a pad of yellow legal paper and a pen, and when it turns out that neither this moment nor the several which follow are of death, she reaches for the items. She makes a few notes of things she would like to remember . . . spilled blood as an end to injury . . . an elusive faceless child . . . rusty nails driven deep . . . blue-mooned eggs . . . the scent of smoky spittle . . . deliquescence . . . but her motivation melts into the final word’s intention, and so, unable and unwilling to make more sense of anything, she dances unmoving within the lilt of the haunting avian song.
Her eyes closed, she dances within, lithe and graceful in pain’s embrace.
She presses a hand down, fingers spread, into the notepad that rests upon her thighs. Eyes still closed, she traces the outline of her hand onto the page, pressing hard as she charts her course. The brush of the pen against the sides of her fingers recalls the past, and a sudden vision catches in her throat like a swallowed stone . . . a memory of her mother tracing her small-girl hand against yellow lined paper. Just like this. She traces more slowly, willing that memory to linger for a moment against her skin and within her throat. She breathes deeply of the space her mother is not here to fill, imagining that an extended hand would brush up against her mother’s outlines.
Finished, still blind behind closed lids, she lifts her hand away from the page and then lowers it again, her hand seeking the proof of its existence in the outlines of a moment before.
She easily finds the gouged pathway.
The sound of fingertips brushing against the past is both soothing and intoxicating; she wants to exist forever in the ebb and flow of these susurrations.
With index finger, she traces the entirety of her hand’s outline.
This proof of her existence.
This proof of her past.
This proof of . . .
spilled blood as an end to injury
an elusive faceless child
rusty nails driven deep
the scent of smoky spittle
a lilting dance
the embrace of pain
on unseeing fingertips
of the long-ago
told in birdsong
echoed against the gouged tracings
of what was