This flash fiction piece was originally published on a website called Rewriting Mary Sue, but unfortunately that website is no longer available. So I thought I’d publish it here instead. Enjoy!
The light turns green, yellow, then red… As I’m watching this procession she leans over the back of her seat to wipe away a tear I didn’t know I’d shed.
“No tears,” I repeat.
My voice betrays me. I bite down on my bottom lip to keep the rest of me cracking, too. The windows are foggy from the running heat, but winter permeates, even here.
Last night, I saw what it truly means for a human being to be undone. I watched as her eyes filled with terror, utter panic, and things I had no names for. There were shadows dancing a frenzied ballet behind the blue in her eyes, birds beating their wings against their ocular cage, until I could hear the crunch of their broken bones.
I saw the coil of strength slowly uncurl into fragility; her body shaking like a cup in its saucer, rocking back and forth as everything ate away at her from the inside.
This sickness had seasons: first a tornado and then a monsoon.
Manic and Depressive.
By the end of the night, she had decided to check-in. I stayed awake, watching the inky black turn murky gray and bleed slowly into powder blue. I listened for the bird song of morning; the world’s merciful reset button.
I climbed out of bed weary, my skin a jacket that is three sizes too big.
Now we are in front of the hospital. Not crying, not talking, not afraid…and lying.
When she looks into my eyes I see the unspoken apologies, the desperate wish she could stay here with me and the shadows gliding under her eyelids, reminding us of the impossibility.
“Mom?” The word burns all the way out of my mouth.
“I love you. Have a good day at school.”
What she means is stay strong. Always stay strong. That is rule number one.
This time it’s her turn to cry, but she won’t let me wipe away her tears. A gentle stroke to the side of my face and she’s already walking away.
“…I love you, too.”