Mornings are the most enchanting time of day. Light streams through the windows, hugging my home with its bright tentacles. When the light hits the colorful crystals hanging down from the rainbow maker taped in the kitchen, tiny spurts of color dance into my bedroom like fairies. Waking up to those cheery rainbows always told me that it was going to be a good day. Who knew light could be so deceitful. I slide into my kitchen on the ends of my blue pajama pants still two sizes too big. Mom sits still as a statue at the dining room table. Her lips are a straight line. Slowly, she looks up to meet my gaze, her face pale as if she’s seen a ghost. Mom asks me to sit down, gesturing slightly to the chair across from her. Tears have left her eyes ruby red. I cringe when I hear the slight rasp in her voice. The waves of pain shake our home like an earthquake. My legs are paralyzed with fear. I glance down to see my feet melting into the ground, two candles waiting to be burned. I refuse to be privy to whatever is weighing down my mother’s heart. As long as I stay showered by rainbows in the safety of the kitchen, then nothing has to change.
Somehow I manage to tear my feet from the floorboards and sit down across from my mother at the dining room table. I try to mentally prepare myself for whatever’s coming next, making an internal promise that it cannot be as bad as what I am imagining.
Why do we lie to ourselves?
To my distress, I begin cracking my knuckles, a habit I quit months ago. Tick tock tick tock. The red clock keeps careful count of the tense seconds as we sit in silence. Then my mom begins to speak.
Her words rush around my head as I try to save myself from suffocating under their weight. “There’s been an accident.” I wait for her to tell me everyone’s okay, but those words of sweet reassurance never reach me. Instead I hear a horror story: a man breaking into my aunt’s house with a blade. My aunt running and fighting him off with an axe. A hospital treating her stab wounds.
A cloud ambushes the sun, and the rainbows vanish.
I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping I can block out the truth. This is the nightmare that happens to someone else. Anyone else. It is the story you read in the paper and feel a few moments of remorse before flipping to the next page.
“I am flying out to see her tomorrow.” I nod. “She was so brave.” Another nod. My brain has stopped functioning. Illana helped me climb my first tree when I was just four years old. She stills calls me “Averybear” whenever we visit her. Illana can’t be the person in my mother’s devastating account. Everyone is wrong. They must be. They have to be. I feel the need to sit before I remember that I am already seated. Then I am standing up. In a trance I get dressed, brush my teeth, and continue with my life. But something stopped in that moment. My world is blanketed in a shield of security. But that morning I reached up and realized there is no shield at all, just the endlessly vast universe. We have no protection.