i’m not sure what compelled me to seek out my copy of emily dickinson’s poetry, but i couldn’t leave for work until i had it in my hands.
the front flap was tucked into the pages. i pulled it back, trying to set it right, when i noticed the signature hidden on the inside cover–my grandmother’s name in beautiful, distinctive flourish.
i don’t know how long i stood in the kitchen, fluorescent light casting blueish shadows on the floor. i don’t know how long it took the tears to form, to fall.
eighteen months ago
april in texas is a kind of first summer, wet and hot and relentless.
my mother called me on a sunday. she said my grandmother had fallen in her home and had been taken to a major hospital in a nearby city.
forty-five minutes later, i was navigating the maze of bright-light hallways and shades of antiseptic melancholy. underneath the hum of activity was the ever-present beeping of machines.
i found my way to her room. my grandfather offered me the only chair.
she seemed far away, numbed by medication and shock, but it wouldn’t last. the eight broken ribs would make themselves painfully known, throughout her body and ours.
within a few days, our extended family–my mother and her siblings and all but a handful of the grandkids–had taken over the wing. we claimed the waiting room, blankets and snacks and electronics strewn around us. we talked late into the night. we shared stories and laughed and cried when we accepted what was happening.
six months ago
how did i hear about it? an article? an ad? the trailer, maybe, on a social feed?
a film called wild nights with emily proposed a new interpretation of the emily dickinson’s letters and works–that she was in love with her brother’s wife, sue, and not at all the fearful, unrequited lover of unavailable men we’ve come to believe she was.
after a particularly challenging week of work–and while my mother lay in the same hospital her mother had died in, recovering from surgery to remove a 13cm tumor from her abdomen–i sat in a dark theater and watched molly shannon kiss susan ziegler as a narrator recited the version of the story i already knew.
molly’s emily felt more real to me than any other, this vibrant being of passion and humor and regret and sadness so deep that she didn’t know a way out. could i call her my sister then? fellow poetess with an affinity for the same kind of love?
i shared a photo of the book with my mother. the day after chemo is usually one of her best days of the week, steroids like buoys against the grey of sick sleep.
“i must have stolen this at some point,” i said. “i want you to have it, if you want it.”
instead, she said i should keep it. maybe it was meant for me. maybe it was my grandmother’s way of letting me know that she wasn’t really gone.
i’m not sure i believe something like that can happen. more than likely, it was serendipity, or maybe the vague tugging of memory, grief leading me back in time.
however the book came back to me, i’m thankful it did–if only for the reminder of books’ magic.