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I am four years old. My parents have yet to divorce.
I am holding a box with a necklace inside. It is a gift
from Spain. I am confused and then sad. I do not know
where Spain is. I do not know what Spain is. Children
should not be given gifts they cannot understand, I think.
In the backseat on the drive home, I will it to tell me
where it comes from. I want to know where it’s been.
I want to know, even as I’m being carried into the house.
Squirrels run through the attic above my head.
I am in my bed, working hard to convince myself
they are angels. A transistor radio plays: a doctor,
I assume, is solving callers’ problems. I need him
to solve mine. I want him to say something only
I will understand so I can turn on my side,
rest my prayered hands on my pillow and sleep.
I pour water in my ear, hoping that will drown
out everything I do not need to hear. A doll
sits across the room, watching, saying nothing.
The nurse doesn’t say anything to me anymore.
She is either tired of my face or sees my arrival
as a reminder that she has three more hours of work.
I lie on the cot and stare up at the ceiling, counting
the dots as if I expect the number of them to change.
At no point do I get up and go through the filing cabinets,
mess about with the medical supplies or throw up.
I slip my hand under my shirt and lightly move
my fingertips over my stomach. I want the nurse
to come in and catch me and offer to touch me like that.
When chills run up my arms, I stop. Sometimes I fall
to sleep. Then I stand, tuck in my shirt, and go back to class.
There is absolutely no benefit to knowing how to spell
words that no one will ever say, that I will never say.
I know that, but still I slip a dictionary under my pillow
so the words will slide between feathers, through my ears,
into my brain. I will learn to spell every word in that book.
I will know them all, know the meanings, know everything.
Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. Her book, A Wife is a Hope Chest, will appear in 2017 as the first full-length collection in the Mineral Point Poery Series from Brain Mill Press. She also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world’s wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com.