"Spring is like a perhaps hand" writes cummings, and I read it and think of what the spring will lay across our paths.
Maggie's hands are the most beautiful. As she slept, I would look at them for the few minutes I was allowed in the ICU and keep pushing the thought away. I would try to look the swelling away so that it would not be there, on her beautifully intricate fingers, her nails that laid on the flesh of them without the pain of cuticles and their constant hassle.
We have not inherited her insistence on keeping the house clean.
The last time I was in her house, I looked at the deep red of the fabric that bound the wood of the furniture, the red in the handwoven kilim on the large granite stone blocks that made up the floor and I felt that this red is the color of her passion, subdued like a baby put to sleep because it’s the right time.
I remember now the discussions I would have with her daughters, my cousins, beautiful women, with brushes of their mother's beauty in their eyes, their hair, their noses and their lips and their cheekbones, about the dishes.
Perhaps it was when her hands had stopped washing the dishes so effortlessly, in such an order after every meal, that I should have worried. I should have listened, to what, I do not know. And now there is regret and a missing that we cannot yet understand.
Perhaps the perhaps hand that would wash the dishes was a hint and perhaps we should have all paid attention. Perhaps hands are arbitrary and that is so farther away than everything concrete that we all wanted.
And yet we hoped, and hope is the most arbitrary of all feelings.
I looked at my small hands as I cut my nails this morning. They are not as beautiful as Maggie's hands. They are also not as full. They are small hands. But she as taught me to love and care for them. I cut around my small fleshy fingers and I remember the manicures and pedicures we got in the balcony of her house but I do not lean over to my shoulder to kiss it, like I used to do around her that day and she laughed. This single act of loving oneself, of kissing one's skin. So simple, one twist and the lips press on the shoulder ball and one is loved.
I feel that I am unable to love myself. Then I correct myself, perhaps I am unable to enjoy my own company.
The pattern I have for washing the dishes is far away from Maggie's discipline. I tell myself perhaps I should adopt hers and let my worries drown in the kitchen sink. I feel nothing as dishes are washed around me this morning. I feel nothing. I speak to my mother on the phone and she tells me after all the small talk, that she feels nothing as well. She has not yet processed that her youngest sister is no longer there. She is afraid of the moment it will hit her and until then, she does not understand.
During the past weeks, I was meditating my cleaning patterns. I was thinking I am obsessed with my home because I am scared of losing her, the woman who poured all her creativity into living in a beautiful house. But I do not clean. I take the hoover out and leave it lying in the middle of the room and I start crying and I ask that it is left where it is, because I will get back to it, I will clean, but I never do. My cat leaves the apartment sneakily, and when I find him, he allows me to carry him – a rare act – and it is then that I cry and I realize that I am not ready for loss.
Perhaps, it is the spirit of spring, to teach us about loss.
What do we do now, I keep thinking? What do we do with the nothingness we feel? Onething can become something else, but nothingness becomes itself, it remains as it is and it doesn't go anywhere.
My hands are cold.
I wonder if they are still cold from that day. The last day I saw her. The last thing she tried to tell me using her voice was that my hands were cold. I am so used to my cold hands that I thought her warm hands in mine were cold and I ventured to get her a blanket but she insisted in softness and exhaustion that they were mine that were cold. I laughed then and told her that it is a constant. Cold limbs from nervousness and not the weather? Perhaps, but not always.
But what do we do now?
I want to ask her but my brain freezes over. I want to touch her hair but I feel like an idiot because I am closing on my thirties and I have not yet killed the habit of playing with the hair of people I love. I hear her voice all night, calling my name, Zozaa, the way she called me and I hear her laugh, and I wake up at once so scared and I fall asleep immediately. Now I am just scared that I forget her voice.
I have always wondered why our laughs sound different. I have tried since I was a child to trace my laugh. Loud. Nervous. Giggly. Tense. Not always happy. It has changed. Sometimes without me taking notice. The last and shortest meeting we shared, she laughed without a sound, but it remains with me, it fills my eyes at times and I realize how beautiful it is because I don't even remember the tubes or the bleeping of the monitors or the urgency in the nurse's voice asking me to please leave. I stand at the door leaving and I can see this radiance from her eyes and I can feel it warm me, but I don't check my hands to see if they have also been warmed so they do not bother her next time.
Next time does not come. Perhaps….
Perhaps what, I do not know. I tell Mommie and my baby sister in the car that I realize that my hands look like Maggie's and I know it is not entirely true. But I still want to believe it. As if it gives me something to take care of when she is gone.
It was when I first saw her hand swollen, that I worried and got scared. Mona's hand was swollen too. That is how I remember it. The swollen hand. And then, she's gone. But I know the space between that day I remember and her passing were months and not days. In the car as I negotiate in my own head the extent to which my hands look like Maggie's, Mommie says Amy's hands are a replica of Mona's hands and I remember now, as I write this, the turn of the nail of Mona's thumb.
Last week I could not remember such a detail.
Time is not kind. It heals but not in kindness. It is with its passing that days return and return, to haunt
us and to remind us of emptiness. Time passes and with its passing things become memories and they return and return. Nails. Painted glass. Betadine. Sand. Pizza. Viscose summer pants. Seven Up. Roasted lamb. Cotton. Sapphire blue shoes. The smell of the sea.
I can't catch her smell. I hear her laugh. I can see her eyes. Her voice on the phone making sure I am okay, those sudden unexpected phone calls. Her patient listening.
My house is still a mess. A dusty dirty mess of everything I cannot gather into a pile and sweep away.
She would have commented if she had ever visited. But she would have also noticed the pictures I hung up on the wall.
My balcony is not as wide as hers but I have cleared away things so maybe I can sit and dip my feet, the same size like hers but slimmer and lankier, in a small plastic tub right before sunset and sink myself into rituals that she had taught me years ago.
I sweep away the dust that has gathered around the plant pots in lumps, and I remember her story about the Pothos plant she had for 12 years. If I could keep a plant company that long, I would be happy even if they are easy to keep. I sweep the dust in an erratic attempt to clean and as I sweep I realize that the dead rose petals and the dried bougainvillea leaves make the dust beautiful and more bearable to sweep.
Even if I convince myself I have inherited her hands, I cannot lie to myself about the talent for cleaning.
I leave the two piles: dust hills with crunchy pale pink and coral petals. There is always tomorrow.
Tomorrow, after the wind will move them around again, they will need to swept and then I know now what to do tomorrow. When it comes.
When it comes Maggie.