Every morning she woke up with a different injury. A small cut on her index finger, a blue mark the shape of a jellyfish. One day in the mirror, she noticed a drooping eyelid. If she could only remember where these injuries came from. Had she done something in the haze of night? When she slipped through the long corridor to cut a piece of cheese and the blade flubbed? Was middle age keeping her too busy to remember? She worried about the day after. If one day brought a small cut, the next could bring a lump. But the injuries remained vague, just big enough to remind her of the body she inhabited.
She sighed and examined the cut she’d found this morning. She squeezed a tiny amount of zinc oxide onto the red line and felt herself absorb it. So easy, taking care of small things. But what if they got bigger and bolder, same as when the eyesight fell from her mother’s eyes like a false, faithless apple? Eyes wide open like her mother’s, she wouldn’t know if a spider sat on her arm or if she sat misplaced, unwisely. She’d slap the air, hear her voice, see nothing. She’d call for help. Nothing. When her mother had turned blind, she’d thought this had been her last step of turning away from the world: first the silence, then the snapping at others, now the shutdown. Yet, blindness had opened a door for them. For the first time, her mother would listen to her. She would tilt her head towards her voice. It’s you. She’d direct her gaze over her right shoulder, her pain-hot eyes still, and wring her hands. It’s you. She still wouldn’t touch her, but they would laugh and weep. Together. Her mom would ask not for help but for love. She had always known the tears on her own cheeks and brushed them away, along with the need for others. Now, her mom let her ears see what her eyes couldn’t.
They came together for two hours every Sunday. And the hurt kept coming: the wounds from cutting fruit, the bruises from bumping into a doorjamb. Of course, the nurses in her mother’s home had taken the knives away, but her mother snatched them off the table in the day room, where the others gathered around the TV. Her mother, seventy-eight, had always known how to find a sharp knife. As a child, she had carved wood, now she cut herself. She listened and wept for all the years she hadn’t, the past and the present a tangled web. If only blindness could also make them sing, together. If only she, so much younger, still thriving, wouldn’t wake up with a different injury every morning. If only love could save her from her body. A blue mark, a red line. The zinc cream should work. And yet, the day after, another injury would remind her.
Christine Breede was born in Germany, began to write and work in New York City, and is currently living in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds an MS from Columbia University, serves as a speech therapist for an international school and organizes writers’ workshops for teens. She has earned third prize for the Glimmer Train Open Fiction Award and numerous honorable mentions. She is now at work on her first novel and a short story collection.