Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2014 | Page 19

Deborah DeNicola | 15

Deborah DeNicola

Come Alone to the Alone

Come, true light.

Come, life eternal.

Come, treasure without name.

Come, Alone to the alone . . .

—An Invocation to the Holy Spirit by Saint Symeon

It was hard to tell if it was morning or afternoon from Anastasia’s view. Out the sliding glass doors, a world of pink-lined clouds and reflecting water. She used to know the time instinctively by the light, where it fell, where it failed to fall, where it shadowed. There was such confusion now and she dreaded appearing foolish, best to be quiet, keep her noise inside, keep anxiety from detonating into livewire energy, cling to that growing sense that she was lightly tethered to the earth. And here beside her wheelchair was the same scattering of women. Always there, or so it seemed, as she remembered, back when she could remember.

They came and went interchangeably, what did it matter if their skin color was black or white or something in between? She was alone with The Alone inside a great, floating bubble. And when she spoke or seemed to speak, the bubble swelled its membranes, voices rocking through like the ocean down the street. When they spoke, she felt they were all under water. These faces, wide-angled and drifting in and out of her own, were unplaceable, untranslatable.

One face, she knew, belonged to her oldest daughter, the one who could never find a decent job, preferring to hide in her room painting flowers. Those of the darker complexion were more familiar. They held her hands, fed her, dressed her each day, gently lifted her thin arms, her crooked elbows, through the armholes of sweaters and blouses. They spoke in a language of lilting music and their sounds reverberated, bouncing about her brain without meaning. She would smile and nod but mostly she was too tired to play along when memories swam into underworld craters, never clear enough to turn a corner. She couldn’t completely follow their chatter, a kind of birdscat comprehensible only by its rhythm and lull that sang her in and out of a cradle-like sleep.

Where she was, why and how she got there fit together in her mind like mismatched puzzle pieces or frames with no interior landscape. Had it always been so? She thought she recognized those gauzy drapes, hadn’t they forever veiled her world? Sometimes, one of the black-faced girls (was she a girl or a boy?) doused Anastasia’s mouth in lipstick, powdered her nose and plunked a mirror in front of her. She couldn’t refuse her own reflection but it was not the self she recalled. When did my hair go silver? Why am I no longer blonde? What is that mushrooming growth on my forehead? Sometimes her very self was enclosed in the glass—just another weird capsule she swallowed and found herself inside of.