by Sarah Allred
I log on to Mom’s computer; I have to print forms to renew a form, or something. I open her browser. While I’m waiting for everything to load I scan her bookmarks: Pinterest, Facebook, something about organic living, Instagram. My eye snags on the last one. It isn’t a link to my Mom’s account; it’s a bookmark for my sister’s page.
I feel the quick shock I always do when I see or hear her name, like sticking your tongue on a battery. I should know it’s coming, it has been years, and I’ve touched the tip of my tongue to hundreds of black and gold squares in my life, but that metallic zip catches me off guard and lingers in my mouth, every time.
I look back towards the hall, where my mother is laying in bed with a migraine. I feel immediately awful for her. I try not to think about Hannah. I try to come to terms with the fact that right now, and maybe always, she just isn’t here. And it hurts when I think about it, but I accept it, and swallow it down, and I go through my life just a little bit lonelier.
But I know Mom thinks about her every day, I didn’t need to see the bookmark to know that. There isn’t I time I come to visit her that she doesn’t mention the prodigal daughter. I just sit. I think about how Mom probably looks at pictures of her every day. I think about how she is dealing with the grief that most women hope they never know: the grief of losing a child. I think about how that grief is tempered by other things: the joy that my sister is still healthy, and alive, just somewhere else; the anger and pain of rejection, but multiplied a hundred by a hundred times; the guilt of thinking that maybe it is her fault and the paradoxical rage of knowing she did everything she knew how to do.
I press my tongue on the roof of my mouth. A man on the radio said if you do this, it is impossible for your body to produce tears. It was meant for as a helpful tip in stressful work situations. Quickly I realize the man on the radio lied, or was misinformed.
I dash the tears from my face. I can’t do this every day. It would rip me apart. I am now, for all intents and purposes, an only child. If I think about it the loneliness is too much, the betrayal is too much, the thought of her caring so little about us to do this, to give up, is gutting.
So I try not to think about it. I think, instead, of how I can be a better daughter. I think of how I can love my parents enough for the both of us. I think of how I can make my parents proud enough for the both of us.
I think about clicking that button.