Over chili and red wine his mother describes the garden to me. In the backyard past the blue-tiled kitchen through the sliding doors she grows a world of miniature houses. I imagine her pale hands in the orange of afternoon: they are not gentle building. With the brick and beam of dead moss she makes for each house a looping jagged skeleton of clump and weaving. She decorates their brittle bodies with cork and ribbon; fills each room thick with compost. The glorious locus of creation and decay.
When my parents are asleep I help my brother to the bathroom in the dark. Lopsided, we shuffle over the pale brown linoleum to a low toilet. I hold onto his shoulders in the black of the bathroom. Lizzie, I miss our home. His body is a gray light of familiar things. He speaks the looping jagged skeleton of his language beneath our parents’ sleeping: I miss –, I miss –.
Perseveration: the repetition of a particular response … phrase, or gesture, despite the absence or cessation of a stimulus, usually caused by brain injury or other organic disorder.
I cut my hair to my shoulders. My mom says I look five years older now. At the hospital they still think I am his little sister.
This organic disorder of him, this hard longing – it tastes particularly potent to me this morning. I’ve let the repetition inside me somehow. I pour a spoonful of pink medicine for his stomach; he hurts like a five out of ten this morning. We pack everything in laundry baskets, leaving only our Prosecco in the fridge for the next family.
In yesterday’s clothes we have black coffee and English muffins in Goldberg’s Diner on our way out of town. We unwrap glorious gold paper packages of butter. Over our quiet final breakfast in Atlanta I remember an August morning at the beginning of all of this, handing paper and coins to a man at the corner of McLean and Union. I gave him the money through the passenger window, stopping on my way downtown to Edward in the ICU. Thank you, sister. Thank you. This morning I remember my sisterhood, the organic disorder of a language I will always have.