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Wait.

Wait, wait, wait.


I am not pregnant. I was pregnant. I could feel her inside me, then there she is, already learning to walk, stumbling towards me with arms held up in the air. 


She is so—lovely. So—lovely. 


Now give that to me, young lady. 


No, it’s not a doll I’m holding on to, don’t call it that. It’s my baby! Just look. Her hair, shimmering like sand in a breeze of morning wind. And how sweet she smells, you smell it? Oranges. I used to pat her with those sweet baby oils on the back. Smells like home.  


Was two years old, my daughter. Long time ago.

 

No, no, no. There’s nothing to feel sorry for. 


I tell you, she’s coming back. My daughter is coming back, and so is her daddy. The nurses kept saying he’d left, and I kept asking whether he was gone, like our baby Nora? They said oh no darling that’s not the same thing. Remember what Dan said before settling you here? When you get better he’ll be back, perhaps you two can be parents again. I wonder was it him who took her away then? I’m always confused but perhaps I shouldn’t be asking too often. Before her daddy’s gone, whenever I ask him why he’s doing this why he’s doing this, he becomes really upset. 

 

I haven’t seen him in a long, long time. 


Come back here, Nora, let me look at you, baby…I remember your face, covered behind a spoonful of spaghetti sauce smiling at me. Look how nicely I fed you! And that delivery nurse with a long face was saying "this one won’t last long", God bless her. But it’s been a while since then, and here you are! 

 

Don’t talk to me like that, young lady, I say, I am your mother.

 

No. No no no. Don’t call them! Don't call the nurses! Don’t you understand that they would hear us? Don’t you see how wicked they are? They come and leave and make you sleep. Sometimes I just tell them no I don’t want to sleep please just let me sit and think for a few minutes and they say no. In their eyes I’m old and mad. I’m not. 

 

You too understand that they are wicked, right?

That’s my good girl. Don't let them see you.

 

You’re leaving by half past four?

 

Ok…reasonable. Everyone here holds very strict notions about time, I was told. Like when I was little and living with ma. The nurses here would let me go out every other morning, at around ten. Beautiful, beautiful mornings. They take me out for walks—you should have a look at those neat little paths. They accompany me, one lady always holding my hand like she's holding a little girl, her hand pale and moist like the cold, melting snow. It snows a lot over here, you see, darling? It snowed the day he took me here, your daddy. He was driving and he was unhappy, so I looked at the little cabins by the road covered in snow. I like snow, but snow smothers the flowers so sometimes I don’t like snow.

 

When I was little.

 

When I was little I had a dream. A bad dream, of my mother and I walking across the street in snow. And I asked her ma, where do people go after they pass away? And she answered in her icy tongue, to the heavens, floating upwards, with snow-white angels playing violins on the sideways. But I—oh I was so terrified Nora, I truly was. By the next second I was floating right away and flew across the angels with blurry faces and was thrown into blackness. My mother never said anything about that darkness behind the angels. She did not, you see?  There’s no time for that, just…no…time.

 

Sometimes I hate her. 


I hated her so bad for looking at me with the look of a dead stone. Ever since her man took off. But her hair, long and coarse and lacked lustre, had this scent of orange that never faded away. Never. You smell my hands now and you see it wrapping around my fingers, as if she lingers. There’s weight in this scent that keeps pulling me down, and I figured that what I hated the most about her after all is her death. A long, excruciating one. Then a soft breeze of wind that attempted to dry the void in vain. That’s when I figured out that I’d make love and make you. But ever since then I started avoiding watching people’s faces, each time I did, all faces were distorting gently, flashing from smooth, young skin to wrinkles to those blurry angels in a glimpse, cracking into ashes. Then an image of a black, vast space with only scattered stars. 


No more my mother’s face, or my daughter’s face. All going, gone.

 

Silent lullabies in a broken heart.

 

When I think about the gone people I feel a wooden frame in my stomach, its edges piercing me whenever I think of remembering. But at least I could feel them inside. Safe and sound.  

 

O, how inconsiderate I am.

Let me pull a chair for you!

 

Nora. Little Nora, lovely name. Who named you, your mother?

A lovely, lovely name.

 

It’s the last day of the year, that’s why the nurses downstairs are celebrating. They gave me these holiday cookies, with sugar tops sprinkled like confetti. Pretty confetti! People everywhere are celebrating the New Year. I guess I'm not entirely forgotten, and I make sure never to forget other people either. Not you.

 

You can have one of these cookies if you like. No?


Alright. And it’s only a few minutes over four, child, you see that I remember.

 

Why are you leaving so early? What do you mean when you say "back home"? Well of course I know this is not a home. You’re saying you are Nora and my daughter is another Nora. There are two Noras because you are a girl scout. A girl scout coming here to visit. All for the sake of chari—charity…

 

You now want the cookies? Sure you can have them, here’s one.


Wait. Take this one instead. 

This orange one.

 

And you like the snow! 


How nice, yes, snow can be quiet, pure and good, and bring nourishing waters like little soft pitfalls of rain. I remember traveling on the Wisconsin highway in 1992 and it's snowing outside the car and her daddy is driving and saying, I’ll be back, I’ll pick you up when things get better. Perhaps we can be parents again. A promise. Now I remember.

 

Oh it’s already half past four.


Half past four already and you’re leaving? 


Please tell me that you are also coming back. Tell me that you are coming back tomorrow, and I’ll take it. Just leave again by half past four. As long as you are still coming back. Now I know that all people who left me are coming back.


Date submitted: September 27. 2023

Date accepted: October 23, 2023

 

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