You won’t remember that I said I liked blueberry jam even though I preferred strawberry, just because you didn’t like red in your food. French fries were hard to eat because they didn’t taste right without ketchup, but ketchup made you cry because sometimes squirrels couldn’t cross the road quickly enough. Our mom’s garden was full of yellow peppers and cucumbers and squash and a single plant of golden heirloom tomatoes. After that year when I picked all the red tomatoes before they were ripe, mom had said we might as well be the only family in the world that made pizza with yellow sauce.
You won’t remember that I stood behind you when the school bus door opened and glared at the bus driver until he said good morning to you too. I stood until you’d removed your backpack and checked your pockets three times before sitting down. He wasn’t supposed to drive until we were seated, and everyone knew I would tattle if he did. The bus was always full, and I wished I didn’t have to sit beside you because I knew it was too close. But I was the only one who knew to scoot to the far edge of the seat and sit perfectly straight and pull in my backpack after every left turn and not ask you questions you couldn’t answer.
You won’t remember that I learned the eloquence of your silences and the way your hand fluttered when you were excited and how you hummed when you wanted me to pay attention. We watched Robin Hood every afternoon after school, and I begged mom to buy three extra copies of the DVD just in case. I said the petting zoo was excitement enough for me and I didn’t want to go to Sandy’s backyard camping sleepover anyway. Summer camp was only a daydream and while other kids splashed in the public pool, I stared at the ground helping you track the trajectory of bugs.
Then I grew up. Out. Never away.
You couldn’t have known that I fell in love with Ben because he talked to you even when you forgot to look at him and he made you a mixed tape for your old cassette player with every one of your favorite songs in just the right order. He even watched Robin Hood with you and swore French Fries taste better with ranch anyway.
You had never held a child until my son was born.
He won’t remember that you seemed to always know why he cried and that, even though you didn’t like being touched, you pulled him into you and hummed until his tears subsided. He might not understand what it meant that you sliced strawberries – his favorite – into perfect quarters and even swallowed the one his little fingers stretched out towards your mouth. He might not remember that you walked him to his bus every day before school and even learned to wave at the bus driver when she called out a cheery good morning.
Now I watch you both. Boy and man. You sit in the shade, arms thrown over the other’s shoulders, fingers gently fluttering in excitement as you wordlessly watch a new butterfly unfurl its wings.
I once thought I had to make myself small to fit into your world. But my son has always understood that your world has the vastness of the unspeakable.
I’ll always remember that.
Amy Marques grew up between languages and cultures and learned, from an early age, the multiplicity of narratives. She penned three children’s books, barely read medical papers, and numerous letters before turning to short fiction. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in anthologies and journals including Jellyfish Review, Flying South, Streetcake: Experimental Writing Magazine, and Sky Island Journal. @amybookwhisper1 | https://amybookwhisperer.wordpress.com
You can see more of her work in 10.1