If this was then, she’d be dead by now.
It would be early evening, and I would have been preparing for bed, or more than likely in our small, insular town, peeling casseroles off the front porch. Left quietly by the well meaning, a card tucked inside, the sides still warm from hands that departed before any of us could say thank you, or at least stare blankly at them, wondering why we were the only ones who felt like the earth had moved so much in so little time.
I would have come back from a friend down the street, after standing, shell shocked in front of the fire station telling them, “It’s over, she’s dead now, I’m fine.” The stark frozen words that exited my mouth that day. I would have done my part, and my duty, a play I signed on for months back, my staring role, I would have been there, as my classmates stared, gaped really, and the teachers tried to find a nice way to find out why I was there, my my 11 year old self was so unbowed by the events of the day that I was ready, and willing, to be someone else for awhile.
“She’d see me” I’d explained to my father “At least this way, she’d be able to see me.”
About now we would have all been sitting in the quiet of our house, oddly empty when filled to the brim with so many people, the stillness eerie and pressing upon my shoulders. Maybe we stared at each other, the knowledge of my mother’s cold body tucked into a corner somewhere, behind a tree perhaps, where we didn’t need to see it.
About now, I’d be thinking about the day, how it started with a seizure, and a neighbour after the ambulance left. How I muttered she’d be fine and slammed the door before I had a chance to cry. I’d be thinking of my brother, standing in the schoolyard, my mother’s favorite priest (and mine, truth be told) in the car, waiting, the teacher nodding sadly, her hand stretched out to me. The long drive there.
The cold hallways that never changed. The stench of death. The transience on that floor. Even the furniture was uncomfortable.
About now I’d be thinking of that fragmented moment when the machines died, and I screamed and crumbled to the floor, and the stale me that was froze in time, and became merely “ok”. About now I’d be wondering if it was a dream, and she’d come walking around the corner and tell me to tidy my room.
It was all in the book they gave me, months before. Or months after, I never touched it, not for a long time, not willing to admit my loss, our loss, not really, shock taking months to ooze itself from my pores.
About now I was already feeling sick and tired of being a grown up, being brave, like I could anticipate my life, and how I’d need to split it between having fun and doing what needed to be done. How tired I would become of doing all the things that needed to be done, of paying attention where none was paid to me. Of being a woman when I never really got to taste being a child.
About now I’d be wondering if her fake breast would be buried with her.
About now I’d spend my first night a daughter without a mother, a child bereft, left in the arms of a broken man. About now I’d realize I was on my own, my desires and whims and sadness only for me, never to be shared or held for me, never to be borne by another.
About now I’d have broken down like the child I was, and wept myself to sleep.