On the largest couch in the living room, whose softness was rivaled only by the thighs smooshing her on both sides, Hannah squirmed out of her mother’s lap as she listened to a weird-looking lady singing in a foreign language. Usually Hannah liked playing in the living room. She’d hide behind the window drapes and diligently investigate the sounds that Jerry-dog, Mocha-cat, and Nicki-lizzard each made as she dragged them across the piano keys. But today was much more boring. Instead of the blankets and cards and animals that usually populated the room, today millions of giant people sat in rows of plastic folding chairs watching the weird lady sing while they collected tissues.
Hannah carefully observed the giant people gather the tissues, and whenever she had an opportunity, added them to her own collection. She stacked her tissues on her mother’s knee, and counted and recounted them, with her present collection containing eleven. She was good at saving tissues, because the giant people kept offering them to her mother, who was usually very generous and shared them.
At first, Hannah liked the giant people. They all came in and hugged her mother, and smiled and asked about Mocha-cat. They all asked a ton of questions, then sat down in the plastic seats. But when the weird lady started singing, many of them started clutching each other and some of them cried and ruined their tissues by crumpling them against their faces. Sometimes the weird lady would stop singing and one of the giant people would stand up in front of her and start talking about her Daddy by his other name, Daniel. It was all very boring. Hannah buried her head behind her mother’s back and searched for the cat with the big hat that her Daddy told her about a few weeks ago. Her grandmother, sitting next to her, grabbed her wrist and pulled her back into her mother’s lap.
A giant person sitting across from the couch handed Hannah’s mother a tissue who handed it to Hannah, who placed it on her neat tissue stack on her mother’s knee and made a mental note that she now must have thirteen tissues.
The next time the weird lady stopped singing, she told the room full of people to read a poem together. Her mother pointed to a sheet of paper with the poem on it, and Hannah practiced her reading. Hannah liked reading poems; they were short. Everyone in the room started reading together, and Hannah followed along:
To live in this world you must be ab…le to do three things:
To love what is mor…tal. To hold what is close to your bones as thowe yourrr life dee pen deah ddd on it, and when the time comes,
To let it go, to let it go.
After reading the poem, everyone breathed really loudly, but didn’t say anything. The weird lady looked at Hannah with a comforting smile and asked her to come up to the front of the room. Hannah’s mother pointed to the front and told her to tell all the giant people about something she remembers about her Daddy. Yesterday her mother told her that she would have to talk about her Daddy today, so Hannah and her grandmother practiced a lot yesterday so her story would be really good. She checked her tissue collection one more time and asked her mother to hold it safe, then walked to the front of the room.
All the giant people were quite, and looked at her. The weird lady looked at her, but she smiled and put her hand on her shoulder, and Hannah didn’t think she seemed so weird when she wasn’t singing.
Hannah scanned at the rows of giant people sitting in her living room, then turned her gaze and looked only at her mother. She knew that these people called her Daddy “Daniel,” so she did, too. Hannah began her story, “Daniel read to me every night.”
Suddenly, Hannah felt her face getting hot. Her throat started to hurt, and she closed her eyes. She felt her face getting hotter and she clenched her fists, hoping to grab some tissues as tightly as she could, but for the first time all day, she didn’t have any to grasp. She desperately flailed her arms for something to grab, and found the table cloth on a table behind her. Her throat began to hurt more and she grabbed the cloth tighter.
“Look out for the candles!” her grandmother cried, but Hannah was already yanking on the table cloth as hard as she could. Her mother jumped off the couch and rushed over to her, spilling the collection of tissues on the floor. Hannah released the table cloth and grabbed her mother instead, burred her face between her mother’s breasts, and sobbed uncontrollably for years as the weird lady stroked her shoulders so tenderly that she turned around to see if it was her Daddy. But all she saw was the weird lady, and the rows of giant people collecting tissues more rapidly than ever.
Published on August 23, 2012 in Medicine