When my daughter follows her brother to the city, I give her a paper bag containing a sandwich, a glistening bottle of orange soda, and the second half of my heart. My husband waves on the porch as she drives away in a dusty car without a top. I do not wave. I sit in the living room with a hole in my chest and press it tight with both hands so everything else won’t tumble out too.
The women in my knitting circle say that when children leave home, they go straight for the heart in the paper bag, that before they are out of town there’s already blood running down their chin. I say, innocently as I knit, that I hope that’s true, because my heart will stain the car seats. The women laugh and shake their heads in unison like the bobble head dolls I still have upstairs in a room newly vacated. Don’t be silly, they say in perfect unison without even realizing it. It’s not because of that, they explain, kids are just hungry for blood.
I don’t want to believe them at first. They are the same women I have been knitting with for twenty years. We have graduated from bawling babies to terrible toddlers to hungry teenagers to gaping holes together, but I still don’t want to believe them, even though most of the calls between my children and I have resolved in the two of us staring blankly at the shallow remains of a conversation. My children aren’t blood hungry, I say. I am knitting something to cover the hole in my chest, like the rest of the women have already done. It should loosely hang over the hole, but not fill it. We do not fill the holes left by our children and we shun those who do. To be complete without being depended on is wrong to us. The women laugh and they do not press the subject. They knit in silence.
The next time I am on the phone with my daughter, I slice the words so that they bleed. I smash sentences against my teeth to make them raw. My daughter listens to every word and laps up the drops of blood that bubble up on her screen. When she finally has to hang up, she promises she will call again. I do not say a word to my knitting group the next day, but I do not have to. They can see the red on the edges of my mouth. We knit together in silence, keeping our mouths shut so that none of us see the blood coating our tongues.
Noa Covo is a teenaged writer. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Okay Donkey, Waxwing and X-R-A-Y. Her micro chapbook, Bouquet of Fears, was published by Nightingale and Sparrow in July 2020. She can be found on Twitter @covo_noa.
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Art Magdaline Nicole Pexels