mirror world

On the cabin deck in an adirondack chair with this view: a clear, amber-brown lake rich with tannin, wind in the poplars, a jewel sky and our canoe, its maker so legendary that some say it should be in a museum. It took us through everglades past friendly turtles and lilies and beaver dams to the gnarly old twin-trunk maple that now stands watch over the resting place of our son.

Looking down into the glass-flat water at the forest’s reflection I saw the mirror world where Liam lives, the place I’ll always see in puddle and ocean alike. Wondering if he’s looking into it from where he is, looking for the flip-side, waiting for us.

I didn’t think I could watch, but I did. Full of morbid, panicked despair that this grey-white dust is all that remains of him. Then calm, resigned as his specks swirl around us, the same faint seeing as when you have to look away to see distant stars in a thick, black sky. We left the urn there, a marker, watched as bubbles glugged to the surface, swallowed by the creek.

The vessel of his soul, given a home more significant to us than to him. I am already everywhere, he whispers to me. But if you want to come here, do. I’ll be here too.

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Eating my last hospital breakfast in the crapeteria. Have never been so nostalgic for imitation scrambled eggs, chewy, pre-cooked bacon and swampwater tea. I think I’ve got it all handled but then contemplate walking that hallway for the last time, saying goodbye to our nurse-mothers and the scrubbing sinks and the godforsaken beige.

We were supposed to leave here with two babies. And now, only…

My heart knows to never talk that way, not ever, for what it implies to Ben. But my mouth runs ahead, immature. This weekend our cabin’s housekeeper noticed the pumping paraphernalia and asked if we had a baby, and I said yes, but he’s in the NICU, he was early.

Oh my, you sweet dear. And I say he’s great, and we hope he may come home early this week, but…

Ohthankgoodness she cries with gusto, flapping her palms to her bosom. Thank goodness it all worked out for you.

I hesitate and smile, and before we know it she’s off down the forest road, peppering the air with cheery congratulations more and more loudly through the car window as she drives away. Do you heap this tragedy on unnecessary strangers? Is it denying Liam to gloss him over, pretend he didn’t exist to spare others the discomfort of our loss?

No, and yes. Not much help, those answers.

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Psst. Guess what?

We may make our escape from the NICU today, to home. My knuckles are black and blue from knocking wood, but that’s what they tell us.

A pre-emptive note to passerby: pay no heed to the exceptionally large and heavy suitcase accompanying our departure. The one from whence comes the muffled screams. Mind your own beeswax. Nothing to see here. Want to make yourself useful? Get the nurse-in-charge to count to a hundred before doing a staff headcount. That should give us enough time to get clear of the building. Already an ancient joke but one I can’t quit out of sheer nervous energy.

 

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