by Carol Ann Parchewsky
What you don’t want is everyone clamoring to help to assist and asking, interrupting. What can I do? You must be exhausted, tell me, what can I do? Let me do something? They don’t realize that sometimes, it takes longer to explain, to answer why and why, again and again, to tell how, to check, to correct, to finish, to answer why. They don’t realize that the act of doing the thing, that thing, that each minuscule step is weaving an invisible shield around your heart and your brain, a shield to numb the nerves, the emotion, like Novocain for an abscessed tooth, a small prick followed by nothingness other than the drone of the drill over and over.
Before the war, I had a heritage, a culture, a language, roots that extended like perennial groundcover filling the nooks of the flowerbed, your flowerbed, stretching across fields of grass, choking out Heracleum and Salsola Tragus.
They say that your subconscious and your body protect you, that they blur memories to absorb the pain from your worst moments. I don’t believe them. As a baby I had tubes put in my ears to drain fluid. They said because I was born premature and incubated like a baby chicken that I was expected to have problems with my ears throughout my life.
Before the war, I dreamt of my grandmother, her farm, her dog, her kindness to her bullied granddaughter with poppie-outie eyes that now stop waiters in their tracks to exclaim, wow, look at those big blue eyes. My grandmother was resilient, creative, artistic. She wrote pysanky from goose eggs, chicken eggs, and tiny robin eggs plucked from the nests lining the forest beside the boarded-up farmhouse.
What you don’t want is everyone asking, how are you? Are you sure you’re fine? When you and they know that you are not fine, nowhere near fine. That your roots, before they immigrated, unknown, faceless, are calling you home to help. Their souls, the sheaves of wheat bundled and laid at the doorstep, the yellowness of endless sunflowers, the cerulean blue of a cloudless sky, absent of smoke and flames beckon like an outstretched hand.
Once, my mother told me that I was fine, that you were fine, that our memories and our stories are our backbone, unbreakable, that we are like air anywhere and everywhere. But the drone of the jets, sucks the air between our bones, evaporating the words, the thoughts, the invisible shield. The silence of the bombs shatters my ear drums like a Waterford wine glass falling to the tiled floor. I felt the news, what I didn’t want, after the war. My eyes wide open, bloodshot, the tiny pysanka sheltered in my hands, the only thing that was saved.
What you don’t want is to lay a rose on my grave.
What I don’t want is to lay a wreath of sunflowers by your tombstone.
What I want is to feel your arms wrapped around me, solid, your breath moist against the top of my head, the smell of sunflowers and roses, and to hear the beat, b-bump, b-bump of your heart in my ear.
© Carol Ann Parchewsky