I rock Mae in the dark, and I hear Everett roll over on his side to discover that I’m still in the room. The mattress creaks as he pulls himself up, standing quietly to watch us, his chin just over the rail of his crib. From her seat in my lap, Mae reaches up her hand toward Everett, and he extends his chubby, open palm toward her’s. They mostly are trying to stay awake– I know– and I am mostly trying to get them to sleep– but I find myself guiding Mae’s hand toward her brother so their fingers can link. One’s fingers in another’s palm a few seconds before parting. As long as the rocker is facing the crib, they do this again and again- stretch their arms out in the dark to find one another. Sometimes their tiny arms flail and they fail, and I grab their hands with my own instead. But usually, I guide their hands to find one another, because there is something that feels more right about that.
Ellie drew a sailboat for Jacob and a rainbow for Gaga and she wrote the word “hear” for me. No joke– no pictures either. Just four large, crudely shaped letters. “Why did you write this?” I asked. “I asked Gaga how to spell it,” was her answer. “Hear.” Simple enough.
It was quiet in the nail salon; I was the only customer, Lynn the only worker, and I put down my phone to talk to her. I asked about her son, remembering a time he had been working with his mom, a quirky kid of about 11 who read me an entire puppet show he had written that afternoon while he helped scrub water basins and adjust settings on massage chairs. I brought up the memory I had of him (the kid was truly endearing), and Lynn asked about my job teaching English and her concern for how her son (now an eighth grader) might not get into honors classes in high school. “Did he take a test?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. Then a pause. “But that was just after my mom died.” She spoke quickly, her English broken. “And he, he was very close with her.” She tried to find the words to describe what we all know– the feeling of how difficult it is to return to an unchanged world when you have been completely changed by grief. “You know, I cancel everything that week, and I not remember anything,” she says quickly, describing her own reaction to her mom’s death. She goes on to tell me about how she knows he didn’t do as well on the test as he could have because it was so soon after the death of his grandma.
“Li–” she says, (She never says the Z in my name.) “Li, you know who I call about the classes? Who I talk to?” She hands me a pad of paper, “Li– you write down what I say. Because, you know– I don’t want to sound crazy.”
Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do right now. Remind you you aren’t crazy. You aren’t crazy. You have everything you need to know within you.
I’ll listen to my life and I’ll write some stuff down.
I’ll write about my life, which is in some ways your life, and it will be like two small hands meeting in the dark- led by a larger Hand who could very well hold us fiercely in its grip, but instead releases us so we can hold the hands of one another.