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  • Writer's pictureJoseph R. Goodall

It's Not For Me To Say

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Photo by Carlos de Miguel from Upsplash

“Come close, child. Come rest against me.”

Her arms wrap around us and keep us safe. I nestle beside her chest, my face relaxing as the steady rhythm of her heartbeat calms my own.

“Will you still be with me tomorrow?” I ask.

“I will always be with you. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” Her voice is soft and low, like the moon light filtering through the wispy curtains. I know she is being creative with her words.

“That’s not what I mean.” I try to pull my head away from her body to look into her eyes, but she won’t let me move. Her bosom vibrates again at the sound of her voice.

“Right now, little one. That’s what matters. This moment is all we have.”

“I mean tomorrow, when we wake up. When we eat breakfast, when I get home from school - I can’t be by myself.” I imagine preparing food on my own in the kitchen, unable to reach the back of the stovetop with my short arms. My eyes droop with sadness. I won’t be able to fall asleep tonight.

“It’s not for me to say, young one. But you are strong and brave. Remember that,” she coos.

“I know you’ll get better. I want it with all my heart,” I speak to her body itself.

“I love you, chickadee.” Her grip around me loosens. I squirm around, trying to revive my numbing limbs. I’m growing more impatient with her, why can’t she just believe?

“Why won’t you say it? Promise it will all be ok?” Tears burn on my cheeks, soon flowing down a freshly carved path.

“Don’t be afraid, baby.” Her breath, warm on my ear, sounds uneven. I’m trying desperately to make sense of her cryptic comfort. She’s here with me yet mysteriously absent. If I get up, she may disappear, melt away into nothing. Questions surface in my mind as defense mechanisms.

“Are you hurting, Mama?” I squeak, hoping her answer will fill the growing loneliness in the room.

“I’m tired, is all. I need to rest.” Her head tilts back into the chair, and we both sink lower. I want to cry, to wail, hoping that she will respond.

“Is it ok to miss someone before they’re gone?” She always says I’m wise beyond my years. This is my most grown-up question yet.

“I suppose, honey. I couldn’t wait to meet you before I ever knew you’d come to be.” The concept of tomorrow, of now, of time itself spins in circles in my head. Mama’s spirit grows distant, and her body shrinks, yet somehow I still feel safe.

“Please call me by my name, Mama,” I say. “While you still can.”

“My sweet child.” She sighs deeply, as if the rest of her being is squeezed out by her collapsing lungs. Through my tears I see the moon dip behind the bristling tree tops. I wrap my arms around Mama for as long as I can.

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