Every Weekend From November To March
by Wayne Crawford
She hears her own voice: Mama, it's me. It's your daughter. Mama, I've come to talk to you. Do you know how often I've been here? I don't know what to say. She hears herself saying: You did a good job, Mama. I wish I could take back some things I've said. I love you, Mama. I can't talk to him. You always talked for me. You're the only one who could ever talk to him. Come back, mama. Tell me what to do. He won't listen to me, mama. You've got to hold on. Hold my hand, mama. I've come to see you.
She drapes herself over a thickly-cushioned chair, weeps silently in the dark...waits. She had arrived for the weekend again.
He doesn't see his daughter in the room. Instead, he walks to the woman laid out in the special bed in the living room where the television never airs, nor the radio, where there are no people, no overhead light. He kneels over the woman, over the guard rails draped with blankets. He grips her hand, turns her head. Her eyes seem to quiver open a little.
He asks, "What are you holding on to? Why don't you let go?" But her eyes jar closed again and he walks into another room, hangs his coat in the closet, lifts mail from the table, opens envelopes near the wastebasket, listens to the nurse's report.
Listening to herself: I never get to talk to her. Does she know I've been here to see her? Is she ever awake?
Listening to him: They gave her morphine on Thursday, last time she didn't wake until Monday. You gotta be here all the time.
She sits by her mother's side who is talking jibberish...making sound. She fingers her mother's fingers, finger-brushes the web of tangent hair, waits to kneel over her, through some illogical time slot of awareness, an hour or so each day, usually, when narrow eyes poke out from swollen lids, baby coffin lids, and lips puff, pull air sound upward to the outer world but: the last seizure paralyzed her vocal chords; the last tumor, the electric plant hit by lightning, shut her down, shut her up. She can not make new sounds or take back old ones.
When she recognizes her daughter, she explodes. The nurse comes running into the room, says she'd never seen her move so hard before, the shaking and grunting, the tugging at her daughter's head, pulling her with all her might to her lips, holding her to her shoulder until the drugs seduce her again until Monday.
She drives home, no need for rain to obscure the highway. Talking to the windshield: Mama, I love you. Talking into the rear-view mirror: I don't want her to die. Conversing with herself: I have a family of my own. I can't be there all the time. Talking with her father: I can't drop everything and come running all the time. My daughter needs me, my son needs me. My husband's working real hard. I need to be home.
Listening to her father: She hurts. I can't understand her anymore when she tries to speak. I lean down until my ear touches her lips but I can't understand her, nothing more than yes and no, and it tears my heart out.
Listening to herself: Me too. Me too.
Talking for her father: How are you? How is your family? Are you making ends meet okay? I love you. You're a good daughter. I'm proud of you. I can tell you're happy.
Listening to her father: It's too late to start talking now. He comes into the room: "Where have you been? I didn't see you when I came in?"
She says, "I guess I fell asleep in the chair. It was a long drive."
He asks, "When are you going back?"
She says, "Sunday, maybe go back around noon. I don't like to drive in the dark."
He nods, says, "I've come from the club. I'm going up to shower."
"You wanna go out or order in for supper?"
Wayne Crawford lives in Las Cruces, NewMexico, where he writes and gardens obsessively. He also loves music and art. His work has appeared in a number of journals. He recently retired as Director of English Education at Western Illinois University.