By Tonia Marie Harris
Your heart cries for your loss every day, even when the rain comes in and the grass turns green again. I see it in the lines around your mouth and hear it in your voice when you sing. You keep singing, cause that’s what folks around these parts do. Well, for the most part. Old Farmer Higgs down the road, he don’t sing no more.
Come for a walk with me, My Love. The dishes will wait and that old clock stopped ticking the night she died. I want to hold my wife’s hand and listen to the sound of your gait on the frontage road.
Remember when I first met you? That day your eyes were as blue as the sprig of forget me nots I gave you that night. How our ankles were wet with dew and I promised to have a star named after you.
I did, by golly. The day you brought her into the world in water and blood. Still have that paper framed in the hallway, right outside her door.
Sorry, My Love. I’ll stop. We’re getting close anyway. See the way no one tends these fields anymore. Old Farmer never did fix that broken slat on his gate. I reckon he knows a thing or two about heartache.
I’ll knock again. He always knows when someone’s come for one of his toys. That’s what I hear, anyways.
I watch your face as you cross the door sill. The way your eyes get a little bright when you appraise the shelves full of knick knacks and doodads. How you inhale the rich, clean scent of cedar. A tear sparkles in the light through the dusty window as it falls off your cheek and to the floor.
Aye, I tell you. He made them all with nothing but his bare hands and a knife.
Old Farmer shrugs and buries his big hands deeper inside his coveralls.
Your gaze passes over the shelves of toys and meet mine.
Aye, I want to say. There’s magic left in this world of ours yet.
I say nothing because the corner of your mouth turns up and you almost smile.
My chest twists and I wrestle with myself for a moment. It passes, though. I nod at Old Farmer and he goes to chest in the corner of the room. You come back to me and reach for my hand again when he lifts the lid and pulls a top out.
It’s painted with forget- me- nots and stars, just like I asked. It’s beautiful. You tremble, but don’t reach out. I can recall the moment you stopped reaching out for what you wanted. The moment your arms emptied and your soul poured out all over like a sieve.
He sets the top down on the bowing plank floor and steps back. It balances and waits for you. I reckon it’s been too long since I gave you a gift and now you don’t know what to do with this one.
I count the rise and fall of your breaths before you kneel and set it spinning.
There she is. Our girl. Wearing that little striped dress you made for her last birthday. Why, her cheeks are pink and she smells like summer she’s so real. You touch her and she says one word.
The spinning stops and you fall to your knees hard and try to set it going again. It won’t go. Aye, there’s magic in the world, but we have to be careful with it. We can’t be greedy. My Love, take a walk with me in the dusk of evening and we’ll come back tomorrow.
There’s not a word spoken between us all the rest of the night. I know I did wrong. Oh Lord. I want to rend my clothes and bemoan my poor choices like one of the Pharisees in the Bible. My old hands only pull back the faded quilt on our bed and tuck you in.
That night I know when you leave me. Your breath hitches like you’ve been crying and you sort of sigh. I hold your hand as it gets cold until the morning light peeps into our room.
When I bury you, why, I don’t cry at all. I go back to the house and stare at a pile of dirty dishes for so long my eyes hurt. I think about the way you almost smiled and how I should have known then I was in the wrong.
Old Farmer doesn’t look surprised to see me. He fetches that same top and it balances on the warped floorboard. I imagine seeing you. What you would wear. How your eyes would sparkle.
I cannot, will not, set it to spinning.