Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
You can hardly remember now how you would pull out the ribbons she weaved through your hair, launching them into the wind as you pedaled faster on your bike. You have left that girl behind. You believe in the power of ribbons and roses now. You are a woman.
When he tired of talking, he’d slap a red, hand-shaped conclusion to the quarrel onto my face, pressing his brand upon me, the mark that labeled me as his.
I was working in the yard, raking out the sunny patch where I plant tomatoes and cucumbers, and feeling the pot gummy I’d eaten a half hour ago start to come on, announced by an uneasy self-consciousness and a brightening little buzz.
After barre, Mme. Francesca follows me to the locker room and tells me I’m officially going to the Cupids dance program this summer and I just can’t stand it.
I’d brought one small bag. A squirrel looked at me and my bag and then ran off, I was sure, to tell the rest of the woodland creatures that a woman had just arrived who had no idea how to pack, let alone survive in the woods: Quick, tell the local serial killer. All that from one squirrel side-eye.
Maryam: And then the soldiers — oh, the soldiers. I’d take my time with them. I’d do to them everything they did to you. Maybe I’d leave one or two alive so they could learn how life can be a long nightmare.
Yeshua: I tried to make people see that all we have to do is turn around, leave that whining precious self behind, let it go and see the wholeness of God’s Name, but people want magic and miracles and kings—
I will tell you this: If there is a God, he does not live in a slaughterhouse. That much I know. I hope the God everyone argues over so viciously is not looking out of those dead, glazed pupils, asking us to see him finally.
He would have said, sometimes it’s not about the truth. Sometimes it’s about kindness. Especially when it comes to family.
MARK HOHN, a handwritten sign said. DEC. 19, 2013. 17 YRS. Here’s what struck me like a bus. It happened to be Dec. 19. He’d died exactly two years earlier. I sat on the ground before the cross and told myself to pay attention, that this was no coincidence.