Kerry Graham

Kerry Graham

But it looks the same, just like it always had, as if nothing had changed. Their legs intersect on the bed, weaving an intricate knot of limbs. Identical, even to her trained eye, to the knots they had wound, daily, before. She marvels at that other life, the one when their overlapping bodies marked each day’s fall and the next one’s rise. Surely, it must also confound him how today, somehow, they again intertwine. In instinct. The landscapes of their lives have pushed, pulled, pried them miles and years apart from one another, yet here they lay. She recalls physics class in high school, lessons about zero displacement, and nearly snickers.

He presses his finger against the side of her nose, then slides it in an arc beneath her eye.  She assumes she has started crying—he had wiped so many tears this way—until he shows her his finger, and she looks not at saline, but an eyelash.

“Make a wish,” he says.

And any resolve she has of staying here, now, thaws. The bronze lace of afternoon thickens into the onyx drapery of night as she remembers another, sadder, time she heard him say those words.

“Make a wish.”

When he said it then, a single flame throwing crooked light across their blackened bedroom, she had not wanted to hear it. He had woken her with a kiss on the forehead, rousing her to commemorate the anniversary—to the minute—of her birth. And thus, he had disregarded her woeful insistence that that year, they would not acknowledge her birthday. Because that year, it felt smug to exalt life, hers in particular. Yet listening to the murmured song he sang in celebration of her, smelling the sweetness of the cinnamon bun he cupped in his hands, she knew: if ever love graced this world, it was here. Now. Him. Her.

But that love, and the urgency with which he hoped for her happiness, could not extinguish the fire of her recent grief. Would not negotiate with fate the repeal of her losses. And, maybe, should not.

That love had not protected them one week and one day prior to her birthday—the morning of her mother’s funeral, the morning born in blood. Along her thighs. On their sheets. She knows only what he told her later. Her gasp had awakened him; she had refused his open arms; he had kneeled in front of her, tears along his cheeks, on her thighs, as he pleaded for her to stop scrubbing. She remembers only the frantic thought, I need to be clean when I say goodbye to Mama I need to be clean when I say goodbye to Mama I need to be clean when I say goodbye to Mama, not grasping at the time her goodbye to her—their—first child was her rubbed raw thighs.    

She looks again at their entangled legs, wondering when goodbye began to matter more than hello. As he presses, slides, repeats, against her nose and under her eye this time, she does not question her tears. She knows the weight of the memories they carry.

“Hey.” He nudges her. “Come on. Make a wish.”   

She cannot count her tears, but does count her laughter—one laugh, exactly—before she closes her eyes, breathes in, and blows her eyelash away.

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