I sit with my mother by the fire. She died many years ago, a younger woman than I am now. In the growing gloom, we regard each other in silence. I try to picture how I came to be here. The room was so bright, full of noise, people screaming in my ear. Sadness, I feel it welling in me still, like I am plucked away from everything I knew before my time. A beast sits on my chest. I cannot breathe, I… I…
“It gets easier.” My mother, she is the first to speak, still so young and beautiful. Just as I last saw her. Her smooth skin shames my wrinkles; her lithe piano-player fingers mock my gnarled, arthritic own. Claws, she deserves better than to reunited with a daughter who carries these haggard ckaws.
“Mom? Where are we? It’s, it’s been so long.”
She continues as if I had not spoken. “The remembering. It gets easier.”
We sit beneath a mesa’s shadow. The flat-topped hill looms above and around us as we cross-legged in flickering twilight. The wind carries distant coyotes’ howls. Nearer we hear the scratching of insects and other small creatures skittering at the edges of our vision. I process all this, staring disbelieving at my mother. How could she be here, in front of me? This titan of my youth who died forty long years ago. How could we sit together in the sand and patchy grass, where between us burn sour-smelling buggalo chips? Unless…
My eyes grow wide, hers sad at my settling realization.
“Every night I see you as you were when I… a little girl, tugging at the hem of my dress. We walk through this desert, a place we have never been. I tell you about the creatures. I walk you to our home. It isn’t much, a heap of sod baked solid by the unforgiving heat of this world, but it’s something.”
“Mom, am I-”
“And now here you are, all grown. Wiser than I ever was. With sons and daughters of your own, also all grown. The world, it passes you by so fast. Forgets so fast.”
“I never forgot you, Mom. Never. Even as I grew. As life continued to flow around and through me. Not entirely. Sometimes I could pretend, like this gaping hole inside was filled by time. But in the night, I remember… what the passing had taken from me.”
“My daughter, my darling, I’m so sorry, yet so glad, to see you here. Finally, I am not alone.”
I can see, shimmering on her smooth, youthful cheeks, tears. My words wound her, but she is glad for them. It means we spirits are still affected. We can still feel. As we reconnect, we both start to smile. Sadness, contentment, sometimes they do walk hand and hand. Like we once did.
How quickly we grow old.
Ignoring the lengthening shadows, our ghosts watch the sun set. In the dark, in the night, we are forgotten.