I have a memory.
It’s summer and my mom is sick. I took her to treatment earlier today, just like every day, but it’s afternoon and we’re back home and she’s been reading in her room.
Except now she walks out and stands by the ledge, and there is fear in her eyes because she knows she’s going to die.
She is scared and childlike and I am scared and childlike, and we look at each other.
I think back to this moment and a lot of things happen, all of them against my will. I clench my eyelids tight, an attempt to shut off my mind’s eye and black out the scene. I notice the fingers of my right hand flexing in and out, rapidly and involuntarily.
And this: I think of that moment, and my heart closes up before I even have a chance to protest, just folds in from the edges towards the center, collapsing in on itself like a sea anemone engulfing an intrusive fingertip.
When I realize that I would rather run to the bathroom and vomit, or twitch compulsively, or crawl under my bed with my eyes closed than remain with that memory for just one moment, I feel as though I know nothing at all about how to grieve.
When I reflect on how infrequently I talk or even think about my mom—who she was or what it was like to be loved by her—I tremble with fear at the mountain of untouched sadness within me.
Maybe one day I will know how to keep my heart open.
But not today.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Courtesy of the Author / Artist: Taffy Buoniconti