She lived with us in that old house I grew up in, I know that now. She seemed to come and go, though I never saw her. And when we went, when we moved out after all those years and headed up north, I heard her silently pleading, screaming don’t go. I froze, alone in the house, packing up a box. I said out loud, I’m sorry. A silence fell, and I considered why I just spoke out loud to no one.
Years later, after we’d moved back south, I was biking down that old street and rode by the house and felt a pull and had to stop. Put one foot down on the pavement to wait, couldn’t understand the pull till I remembered, it was her, had to be. And she rushed out and wrapped her arms around me. She sat on the handlebars and rode with me for the rest of the night. We rode by all the old haunts, stopped at the lake, watched the ducks, saw the sign the city had put up saying not to bother them, the ducks.
That night ended like a dream ends, abruptly, like a car crash, and I didn’t know where she’d gone and wasn’t concerned. Just a waking dream, it seemed.
Shortly after, my wife drove up to the new house late one night, looked up to the window above the garage and saw her peeking out our daughters window, curtain falling aside as she stepped back, caught. She’d grown younger, it seemed, when before I’d never sensed an age she now she seemed tiny. A few weeks later we heard her singing in the hallway upstairs. A few days later, the girls away at school and my wife and I downstairs in the kitchen, she coughed at the top of the stairs. Just one short cough, as if to say I’d like your attention please.
She showed up at my bedside one night. Felt but not seen. Not there. But she was. I exist, she whispered.
I began to write about her, felt I had to, felt I might be losing it, had to get her out or let her go, help her be free. I wrote her birth story but it turned out wrong, a horror.
The serious work began, finally, in the dark. In silence, in the deep night with closed eyes and mind open. I groped for her slowly, blindly, called out and found her, but she didn’t trust me, would’t let me get near and cowered in a corner. I left her there and came back every so often until she finally looked up, met my eyes, crawled over. She was in my arms again and I held her tight. We were in my old room then, in the old house, the one I grew up in, and I don’t know what that means, but we were there.
She wouldn’t talk, just shook her head when I spoke, long dark hair covering her face. I would leave her in my old room, sitting on the bed, her arms wrapped around her knees, let her know I’d keep coming back until she was ready.
One day I knocked on her door (my door) and found her standing by the bed (my bed), smiling. She’d grown older, looked ready to begin. She looked so…well. I told her I loved her. She said I love you, thank you. She wouldn’t take my hand, wouldn’t leave with me. But that smile was something else. It was love. She needed a bit more time.
The last time I found her was in a wooden rocking chair on a wooden deck overlooking green fields, mountains in the distance, big blue sky overhead. Not sure where we were, but there we were, and I sat with her, asked how she was and she turned to me with that smile, that long, dark hair swirling over one eye, and just said she was good, so good. Said she was going to go now. Said it was time for her to go.
And then she was gone.
She hasn’t been back.
When I think of her now, I miss her, but I smile, and feel her smiling too.