19 days have passed. They stack up on the calendar improbably, without meaning.
I have begun to see you places— the sunset over the river, the descending confetti of white-winged gulls, fluffy green pine boughs, glittering against a blue winter sky.
Sometimes I cry, a choking, coughing cry alone in my car, or leaning against a friend, my chin on her shoulder. Sometimes the tears roll silently. I’ve started to lash out at your father, at nearly anyone who asks anything of me, as if my arms are loaded down with my wishes for you and I can do nothing else.
Today there were vast stretches of nothing, like a lonely desert road. A feeling that this whole world might be utterly without significance. Around that, like the scummy edges of a pond, there was frustration, the tense jaw of a wounded dog. And some kind of film hanging over my eyes, refusing them beauty.
I dreamed of you my whole life. Every baby I ever held carried the thought of you. Every girlhood game, every dreamy drive alone. For years I have mapped your father’s face onto mine. You probably had his peaked, cow-licked hairline, and my nostrils visible in profile. Did the fingers you were building bend as far back as his? I will never, ever know.
Stop this foolishness, I tell myself. Grieving a dream, a thing the mind made that never was. Protect yourself from the loss of a vision.
But, I did protect myself. When you lived, I decided everyday to love you as you were. Anything more was too terrifying. Who was I to become your mother, after all? I had only those thirty-five days of you; each one singular, present. I talked to you. I promised you music once you had ears to hear. I placed my hand against my skin and wished you well: may you be happy, I prayed, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may you live with ease.
“I want this baby to know love,” I said to your father, “not fear.” Though, I was afraid from the beginning.
I never took your life for granted. I never thought I’d made a pact with any God to bring you safely here. What I miss is not really the thought of you, not the question of what you would have been. I miss the power of my body. I miss the miraculous secret of you swimming around beneath my ribs. I miss the way your father looked at me then, when I was full of a magic neither of us had ever known before. I miss the feeling that life had thrown open her doors to us at the sound of my timid knock.
I miss you with a child’s inability to comprehend: where did you go? What separates you from me now?
Slowly, I know, I will learn to tend the body of the world as your body. The dog has injured her tail and I wrap it gently, steadfastly, with love for you. I slip a knife through an onion again and again. I watch a hawk’s brown belly sweeping low over my head. I try to love your father the best that I can. He aches for you too, and we must each bear it, hand in hand— this mark of love that will seal our lives from now until our own ends.
Richmond, VA. Whitney Roberts Hill is a seeker and writer currently earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. More of her work can be found on Instagram at @whit_writes, and on the web at www.whitneyrobertshill.com.