Stories from the Other Side

 The Secret

They've been hiding The Secret from me for a long time. The whole time I've been here. I hear them talking about It in low, hushed voices in the living room when they think I'm sleeping in my bed next door. She always sounds sad and anxious, He tries to sound strong. They think it would tear me apart to know, that I would forever feel Different. They talk about being Different like it was a very bad thing, like worse than Going Away Forever. She is scared that I might run away.

Sometimes they have to go back over The Story. She wants to write it down, but He won't let her. He says if they write it down I might see it and then I would know. He says lots of people change their story, He says it's normal, He says this makes us more like A Real Family.

She says What about the papers? He says they'll deal with that later. She says What about school? He says She can teach me. She's clever, got all her As and Bs, She knows about adding up, what more matters?

I don't call them anything. If I want something I just look at them. They want me to be happy. I'm all they've got. They think they found me. They were on that walk and saw me sleeping in the leaves and they think I was lost or Someone Bad left me. When they brought me back to the house they made The Choice. They have never told Anyone. They said Noone knows. He says because Noone knows it's OK. I never saw Noone here or heard them talking to him. I don't know if Noone is a boy or a girl.

She says one day they will tell me The Secret. He gets angry when She says that. He says I can Never Know.

The Dancers

We hear him. Even if he's not talking. We hear his thoughts. Sometimes they are so loud and grating, like the sound of the gas bottle seller hitting his wares. Other times we know he is weeping, but he never shows it on his face. He saw us once. And we knew his heart leapt. It gave him some hope and at the same time fear. Mama said that he needs us, she said we must listen. Sometimes we listen and we hum, we capture his feeling, any bad feeling, and we hold it and bless it and hum it back to him. The times that he is happy we send our happy to him, like a bee to a flower and we bring some of his happy back to us – to save for him.

Sometimes we get frightened, not because anything can happen, but because of what can't happen. So much can't happen anymore. Mama said we are like a mirror but one that shows everything just a little bit different. We giggled when she said that and it made us dance and sway, like reeds by the river at dusk. We danced until we were leaping, and the fire of our beings was a tambourine.

He heard us that time, he heard our laughter and joy but it sprang a sadness in his heart. Because he remembered us. We blow his memories, gently, as a paper boat on water – and what was written in his soul begins to dissolve, begins to rest. Mama said it will take time but we don't understand time, we are not part of that, we are just here and that is all we know. We know we love Mama and we feel things and sometimes we want to dance and sometimes we want to hum and sometimes we want to laugh and sometimes we hold each other when we don't understand all the pieces.

We watch him. He started to hunch his shoulders, like he wants to be smaller. Like he wants to be closer to us. He doesn't smile, not even when we tickle him with the wind, he sits quietly and breathes in and we know he wants to have only one last breath out. But we sing our song to him and he sleeps and we wish for him the bright new sun.

And here we are and here we are, still your children as before, don't cry dear Daddy we are waiting for you, all of us and Mama too.