Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2014 - Page 21

She’d lift into the ethers for an extended stay like the big balloons the elder daughter brought over on her birthday. She was helium clinging to the ceiling. Round shapes gaping above the heads of grandchildren. She didn’t know the names of these smiling boys but knew they were babies yesterday and today, almost men. She rode the moments that replayed themselves over and over. Weren’t these same people in the room yesterday? What déjà vu keeps rewinding? Why do they look at me with desperation in their faces, like starving puppies?

It had become too busy. Doors opening and closing, people to and fro, trays of food, bright packages on the armchair. Anastasia saw that the daughter arranged the confusion and she looked quietly for her aide, Lucia. She couldn’t remember when she’d ever had a black girl in her house. Just the same, she wanted Lucia to sit by her and Lucia to take her away into the bedroom, to lift her atrophied legs onto the bed, tuck her stiff arms into a nightgown, remove her from the din of confusion. Her favorite moments were sitting alone with Lucia, each of them with her magazine. She tried to read though even the pretense lost its meaning soon enough.

In her head she spoke to God. Anger arose though she couldn’t articulate it. Sometimes she was insulted seeing her daughter fawning over her, the others cooing. Embarrassed by this much attention, she felt a stone would go hard in her stomach. When she felt it, she closed her eyes, kept them shut through journeys to different daylight. This intense focus streaming all around her. Too much. All she’d asked was not to be a burden. And they’d made of her a burden. How could she ever forgive them?

She expected to expire, but how? How to die when the sun came through the curtains each morning, a lady appearing ready to bathe her? Life with no memory—no regrets—what was the point of death when she had all she needed with these patient girls who came and went? She had once loved her daughter, though, of course, she was inept, and definitely now, she preferred Lucia.

She remembered “Our Lady of Fatima” framed on the wall and liked when the daughter prayed but now words were so much dust brushed off the knickknacks. Whatever happened to her purse, her money? How nice to no longer care. Perhaps living was not so bad. The aides handled her like glass, and her daughter meant well. She wanted to see her daughter succeed at whatever it was she did that appeared to drive her crazy. Living even now, in this condition had to have some purpose. She sought understanding as if she could trace it out of the photographs she barely recognized. Sometimes a space would clear in her mind like a camera brings figures into focus, and for a short time she would remember.

It had been a life of travel and comfort, children, graduations, vacations. But they would never know how she suffered when her husband passed away so young, how something shifted inside as if she’d swallowed a rat and it slowly chewed through her abdominals. Only now they’d become nodules in her brain, dense matter like meat one cuts open to assess temperature and toughness. She became an actress, a gracious hostess, the matriarchal monument whom all seemed content to believe in. But after the tragedy something shut tight and never opened again.

Why were they all speaking at once in another language in a register she’d never heard? If

Deborah DeNicola | 17