Monday, May 30, 2011

She is pale and frail, tiny on the hospital bed. Becky looks like knives held together by rubber bands. I can't imagine the mask of my face right now. I hug my mother as gently as I can. I hug Becky almost as gently.

I want to ask her how this happened--but I know it's no one's fault, and I'm afraid she'll think I'm blaming her, or I'm afraid she'll blame me for leaving.

This is not about me.

As Mom drifts into sleep, Becky gives me the update in whispers.

"They're still trying some chemo, hoping they can knock it back out."

"When will they know?"

"I'm not sure. Sometimes, the doctor's talking and the words go right past my head."

I try to hang on to her words now.

"She wants to go home."

"If it doesn't work?"

"I don't know. She just keeps saying that she wants to go home."

That doesn't sound good.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Too many wheels. I took the buses to South Bend, only to find a note on the door--they're in Seattle now, at the hospital. That can't be good. And I've wasted all this time.

But they had no way to get a hold of me.

So I'm on another bus. The wheels on the bus go… and I'm going.

I'm not a going kind of person. I'm a stayer.

The miles of Douglas fir stream by, stopped by patches of clear cut. A devastation or a living, depending on who signs your paycheck. Right now, I have no energy for those arguments. The knot in my gut sits hard.

I set my knitting down as the bus swings onto 101 South--it never makes sense when I want to be going North. Why can't the highway just go there, instead of criss-crossing like a sailboat tacking upwind. I think. Sailing is not my strong suit.

A couple more hours.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm on a plane again, and I feel so heavy that how can the wings possibly lift us into the air? We're trapped. I'm trapped.

Becky called with the news that Mom's had a reversal. She's back in the hospital. We have no time.

But it takes so much time to fly--first to anywhere I can get a flight to the U.S., and then the hours over the pole.

Oslo, which means one more flight, and then buses home.

My hands fidget like birds in cages, but I'm too restless to do anything.

Fear and grief sag in my gut--along with my last letter to Sevario. I told him I wasn't ready--which was a lie. How can I lie to someone I like so much? Is that what it is? Nattering through this takes my mind off my mother.

I could have told Sevario there'd been a death in the family--but that's a lie. No one has died. Not yet.

I'm scared--all the while the engines are revving up and the plane taxis down to the runway, while it gathers speed and somehow, against any physics I trust, lifts into the air.

Then my hands are tired of feeling empty. I pick up my needles and yarn.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I buy the ticket to Tenerife.

And I feel terrible.

I don't know what I'm going to tell Sevario, but I tell Henry I'm coming.

Lydia glares at me.

It's August, already everything ending--everything.

If I've never known what I'm doing, I know less now.

Then I get the phone call.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I tack each letter to the wall behind the cash register. It feels very public, but I want them close to me while I work at the store all day.

On one wall, I put up a map of Santiago. On the opposite wall, I place a map of Tenerife.

My indecision is on display, as though knowing the names of the streets will help me choose a destination, choose a life.

"It isn't a life, it's a vacation," Lydia says when she comes to retrieve her dog who has wandered in to sit on my feet.

But she knows it's more than that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"So Sevario wants you to come to Santiago."

I nod.

"And Henry wants you to go to Tenerife."

I nod again.

"Bird in the hand, Misha."

"My hands are empty." I look down at them. So empty.

"But Sevario wants to be with you. He flew thousands of miles to see you."

"It was for work."

"Yeah, I'll bet."

She's right.

"But this might be my only chance to meet Henry."

"And then what?"

"He says the dark is getting to him. Maybe some new drugs…"

"But he'll never long for 24-hour light. Misha, I know you are friends in the weird way we get to be friends here, but I think he's stringing you along. You assume that he's a good person. You make this wonderful story in your head. And he's a comfort, but you don't really know him."

Anger flashes. Lydia doesn't know him either. What is she implying? Then it subsides. I know she's right, but I don't want to say it. I'm not ready to say it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dear Misha,

It's from Henry. It seems ages since I've heard from him, even though we used to write letters only twice a year, only those notes we left for each other. I guess during that time over Christmas, I grew used to the cards and letters, and then he stopped.

Was it because he got cold feet, didn't want to meet in person?

After an absence, this card.

You've mentioned Tenerife. Let's meet there at the equinox.

My breath catches. This sounds impulsive, from Henry.

I'm sorry I haven't written. The darkness has started depressing me. It happens sometimes. To get sick in the sun and depressed in the dark--hardly a life to share with anyone. It's making me want a change--and I want to see you, want you to be part of that change.

I don't know what to say. I'm reading a letter. I don't have to say anything. I have to find Lydia.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Leave early.

Leave? I just got here.

Dear Misha, leave before the equinox and spend some time here in Santiago.

Ink jumps off the page. But it's not unreasonable. Sevario has come to visit me. It's my turn. And while it isn't the Canary Islands, it is a little closer to the middle.

On the flip side of the postcard, more scenes from Santiago--enticing.

For a moment, I allow myself to dream--six months of the year with Sevario and three at each of the earth's poles. As a fairy tale, it isn't bad. But how do you build a life together that way?

I don't have experience building a life with anyone, so I certainly don't know about this.

The door jangles, and a few more tourists wander in. One wants a map in German. One is looking for a book in English. I lead them to the right sections, and then I leave them alone so they can look on their own time.

I have my own looking to do. And I need my own time.