This is the first time that I have cried in a long time, and I realize more than I ever have before
what a good person Tom is. I am glad that he told me off. I did treat him like I was being his
counsellor, and I am so damn worried about impressions. Why am I so confused.
—From my mother’s diary, September 9th, 1977, not long after returning
to Reed College for her junior year.
I want to go back to my mother’s college self,
sit next to her as she cries with her back against the dresser,
the mug of tea in her hands spilling over, as I open the shutters
of every window in the room, let light spill on her still
full head of hair, on her nails that haven’t turned
purple and brittle. I want to go back
to hug her, to be her therapist and tell her
that nobody should tell off somebody they love,
because love isn’t a one-sided conversation.
Love is a conversation about how to take care
of each other after surgery, after your guts
have been spilled on the table, and you look
like an Oompa Loompa, covered in iodine,
swollen from trauma, and your love still finds you
and takes your orange, blood-encrusted hand in his. It’s the holding
of your mother’s hardened arm as you stand at her bedside, watching
over her waxen figure as its stench fills the room,
all rotten eggs and peat moss, and you refuse to open more
than one window, even if it means the smell will linger in the bed
where you will sleep for the next week as you plan her funeral.
That night, instead, you light a beeswax candle from your childhood,
all honeycomb pink. You let it drip down the base and melt into her bedroom floor.