Through the Movement
"...the violins sound like shrieks in my ears..."
“Marla, have you turned on the channel yet?”
The rain pattered on the window as the hum of the heater stirred in my ears. I play with the sticker on the back of the remote, accidentally peeling it off in a motion that only removes half of it, leaving only shredded paper and residue.
“What?” I quickly reply, jolting my head towards the dim light of the kitchen.
“Did you set the TV up yet?”
My mother’s voice overpowers that of the rain and heater, almost as if it pings through my brain.
“No, not yet, sorry.”
Sorry is a default. I'm not really sorry. She knows it too, and that's okay.
She starts heading in my direction in slow motion, a cup of steaming tea in hand. I grab the cup graciously made for me, putting it up to my lips to inhale the fragrant steam. Before my mother could let out, “Wait! It needs to cool off first!” I have already burnt the roof of my mouth. In an instant, the tea is spat back into the cup it came from, splashing droplets onto my hand and the white knit blanket covering me. Luckily, it is green tea and doesn’t leave a mark.
Scurrying quickly back into the kitchen to grab a napkin, I place the tea down onto the wooden coffee table next to me. I don’t bother to grab a coaster, they are on the other side of the room. My body is frozen to the couch, I couldn’t get it if I wanted to.
Tucking a piece of disobedient hair behind my ear, I begin to fiddle with the remote again. She returns to the velvet blue couch, handing me a napkin, eyes slowly moving down to my hand that is clutching the “clicker,” as she would say.
“Marla, hon, why don’t I turn on the TV? I will set it all up for us. Do you need anything else before I sit down?”
Slightly moving my head side to side, she plops right down next to me, placing a hand on my knee, probably without even realizing it. I take a dreadful exhale before saying,
“I can do it. I have to do it myself.”
She nods in agreement, pursing her lips together that make a small clicking sound. We sit in silence for another moment while my awareness of the rain and heater returns and the room is no longer silent for me. Maybe she hears the echoing silence too.
I place the remains of the sticker between my fingertips, scrunching it up into a tiny ball. Still clutching the remote in the other hand, I move the sticker ball next to my cup of tea that is still scalding. The remote is placed in between both my hands now.
Looking over to my mom, I lock eyes with her. Her eyes are a lovely honey brown. Nothing like the color of my blue eyes. I had always preferred hers. They are golden like the sun, bright and warm. Mine are reminiscent of tears, of sadness. As I study her eyes, I realize they aren’t filled with grief like mine, no, they are filled with sorrow...almost with pity. I don’t want to be pitied. I strike my eyes back to the blank black television.
For some reason, this feels like a betrayal. A betrayal that musters up some strength to turn on the TV.
The blue light is stark against the dark walls, the same goes for the sound. I am almost immediately overwhelmed, wanting to click the off button. But it already took me so long to get to this point. I will miss it if I have to repeat the process. So instead, I turn and ask my mother,
Upon meeting her eyes this time, I notice they are sweet and loving. Nothing like I recall from a moment ago. Maybe I was mistaken. I feel guilty that I thought she would pity me. She wouldn’t do that, not when I feel the way I feel. Which is composed of a lot of question marks and deeply rooted dread.
“Channel 8. Make sure to put in the zero first or it will get all static-y. Remember last time?”
I don’t remember the last time this happened.
“Yes,” I reply anyway, “thanks, mom.”
My thumb moves to the rubber 0, which is beginning to wear off from overuse, and then to the 8.
The lights shift again. The sound is no longer a newscaster’s fake voice, but an orchestra playing. I become increasingly aware of my turtleneck. It is choking me. I can’t breathe. The walls are closing in around me, the violins sound like shrieks in my ears, and my hands feel like pins and needles.
She places her hand on my knee. I am grounded. I can breathe again. Not perfectly, but some air is getting through. Enough air.
Plastered across the bottom of the screen in a reel, I read, “The Sara James memorial, remembering one of Grove Place’s most cherished souls.”
And then I hear a sharp inhale. But it wasn’t coming from me, it was coming from my mom. It was visceral as if I felt it in my chest too. Her eyes were filled with grief, but a different kind of grief that I had not initially recognized.
As the orchestra was beginning to finish up, she looks at me while I face the screen. I cannot look at her, or else I will break. No, I will shatter. And I can’t miss this, I am not allowed to walk away from the screen like the others will do. Not when I can’t be there in person, when the ones who really did love her cannot be there holding her family up.
“She was lucky to have a friend like you.”
It shattered me anyway.
I bring the knit white blanket over my arms, placing my head on her shoulder. This time, she is the one to push the hair behind my ears. My body slowly starts to crawl into a ball, as it did once when I was in her womb. When I was merely a combination of atoms who couldn’t feel, who couldn’t grieve.
But then I think, maybe I am happy I can grieve. Because that means I had a lot to appreciate, a lot to love.
This tortuous moment becomes beautiful.
As the orchestra is on their final note, the rain lets up, and I feel like the sun will emerge. It may not, maybe not right now, maybe not even tomorrow, but I feel it coming.