Thursday, September 16, 2010

Puzzling Death

I was bored and not feeling well. Most likely a kidney infection. I had swallowed my antibiotic and was drinking glass after glass of water. My back was tormenting me. It was a strange feeling, not like an everyday backache. I felt as if my organs were pulsing with infection and if you sliced me open you'd see a pus-filled chasm of sickness. I'm sure I'm exaggerating, but it hurt. I had been browsing the internet for about three hours. Time to do something else. I got up to pee for probably the sixteenth time and as I was walking back from the bathroom I passed the hall closet. I thought, I could play a game. Mancala? No, you need two people for that. Ah, there are puzzles in there.
I slid the door aside and unearthed the old box of puzzles. After refilling my water, I returned to my nest on the couch and put on some Chopin. The approaching autumn nudged me to choose the pile of cardboard that would resemble orange and yellow leaves when assembled. They tumbled out in front of me and I had to rescue of few pieces from the puffy lips of a curious feline. I sifted through the heap and beckoned the edge pieces to come to me. They gathered neatly in front of me. There were still some hiding under the middle pieces, snickering about their escape. But I felt I had most of them. I began.

Soon, my mind slipped, my eyes glazed, and I was maybe 6 years old. The room was warm, glowing amber and the wall behind me was a beautiful sunset of wallpaper. The woman next to me smelled of powder and lipstick. Her red lips smiled and welcoming wrinkles multiplied. We would have puzzle races. It wasn't very hard for an aged woman to snap together 12 pieces, but she never let me know that. I always thought, Oh no! She's catching up to me! She's fast! She would color with me too. I felt a certain reverence overcome me when she'd get out the crisp, clean box of 96 Crayola's. It had a built-in sharpener. She softened my grip on the sticks of color so they wouldn't break and taught me how to color inside the lines with small swirling motions. She was the best at coloring. Grandpa would sit near, sipping coffee.

The warm glow fades away, and now I'm 8 years old. I'm in a familiar hallway, one I walked down almost everyday of my life. There was a cold blueish hue seeping in through the front windows. Something had happened the night before. Mom had left in a hurry sometime in the dark. She was back now, in the hallway with me. We were all in the hallway. Dad was talking to my sisters. I didn't really understand what he was saying. Mom had this sad look on her face. I had never seen her look that way before and it frightened me. Then Dad leaned down to me and said, "Grandma Rae has passed away." Passed away? What did he mean? "Where did she go?" I asked. Dad made a sad face too. I think one of my sisters leaned over and said, "She's gone. She died." I felt my forehead and cheek muscles melt from confusion to understanding to...blank. I had to think about this. I walked away, down the stairs to my room.

A few days later I remember wanting to cry and not wanting to cry and pressing my lips against her cold, stiff powdered cheek and thinking Goodbye. She was the best at puzzles.

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