It’s been a long time since we’ve held hands. The last time coincided with our last outing as a family. I remember catching our reflection in the mirrored glass of the carousel horse, and thinking that he looked somehow smaller despite still towering a full 30 centimeters beyond my slightly-taller-than-average 165.
He has diminished further since that day. I don’t outright say this, even to those who inquire in soft and concerned voices, and certainly never to him. My eyes have taken in all of the changes of these past weeks.
“I don’t think – ” he begins, but I cut off his words with an insistent squeeze of my hand.
“There are still options,” I say. Firmly. Unwavering. I will not give up. This time, I will be the one who is strong.
He nods, and doesn’t finish his sentence. I don’t know if he believes me.
On the really bad days, I drive to my parents’ house. Well, it’s not theirs anymore. No matter the name on the deed, it is still the place that I grew up. It feels like home, even if I can’t go back to my old room, or sip a cup of coffee on the sun-bleached and splintering deck my parents installed for my sister’s engagement party.
I can’t stay for very long. The house is situated on a small cul de sac where everybody knows everybody, but everyone from the years I spent here have long ago moved elsewhere. The eyes that meet mine as I follow the curves of the sidewalk lock on me with suspicion, some with a touch of what looks like racism.
“I was here first,” I want to say. “Before you moved in and took out the lawns and flowering plants, I lived here. This was my home. You’re the ones who don’t belong.”
Instead, I pretend to look lost as I drive around and out of the neighborhood. I don’t have to work too hard at my facial expression.
Another day, another lecture. Thankfully, this one does not involve essential oils, nor long winded tales of a friend of a friend whose sister knows a man who worked with a woman whose neighbor knew a doctor who cured an ailment through juicing and kitchen magnets.
I’m accused of not doing enough, which is fine. It’s not the first time, so I know that nodding along in silence will grant me an escape sooner than, oh, facts.
They don’t need to know that in the quietest hours, as I lay with my calico frantically purring on my chest as she perceives my distress, I wonder if I am doing enough. Is there something crucial that I overlooked? Am I cooking enough? Cheerful enough? Have I read all the books and articles that exist on the subject?
I don’t know, so I just keep going. I have to find the way to fix this.