I wasn’t a lonely child, even if I should have been.
I was never bored and I think that helped elevate being alone.
My mother says I was an early talker,
but I can’t imagine to whom, as my parents never had another child.
She says I had a language of my own,
a serious sort of babbling I would do to myself.
Chiding and contemplating in a language no one had taught me.
Adults found it cute, then annoying, then,
when I was too old to still be speaking a non-language,
It was worrying.
My mom told me she wouldn’t answer if I didn’t speak English,
So, I stopped talking.
As a child, I’d seen it once on television,
a school caught on fire.
My parents and I had watched passively,
my mother caressing my hand and playing with my hair.
The school was empty,
the children all vacated from the building and huddled off to the side,
it was late in the day
and only the students held back for bad behavior were still there.
But somehow, a little boy had slipped past the teachers.
And I watched as he, in his panic to get a pet hamster,
rushed to open the school doors.
It was a lion’s roar of flame as the oxygen rushed into the building.
The boy in a flash was a scream, then meat, then bone, then nothing.
My father’d blacked the screen and I’d shut me eyes,
but, the boy’s shadow stained the back of my eye lids.
in the moments after the broadcast,
we were still.
Then my father spoke my mother’s name
softly, searching, comforting.
She shook her head, stiff and enclosed.
I’d started crying;
her fingernails were digging crescent moons into the back of my hand.
My father separated us and took me up by the shoulders,
“Jackie-bear, come on honey, let’s go to bed.”
I tried to sleep and when I gave up I crawled out of bed.
My mother was still in the living room.
She jumped when I touched her forearm;
I don’t think she had stopped staring at the TV.
But she was soft, warm and alive
and I slept on her lap that night.