Finding myself in the Middle East



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Natural Course

The first words that popped into my head when I saw my father for the first time in a year and a half is,

My father looks like a baby chick.

And the words popped into my head whole, like I wrote them, like I was writing them, like I was writing about it on the spot, like I was a reporter for National Geographic. (Page 45: After a 20 year study, at this point, the MS sufferer begins to resemble a baby chick.)

My eyes skimmed over his form, skinny to the point of horrifying emaciation. He had been thin for a while already, but there was nothing to him now at all. His white skin was stretched over his bones, his fingers shaped into claws, His face was frozen into a waxy mask, his eyes half closed. The only thing that stood out in sharp relief, beak-like, was his nose.

I took a shaky intake of breath and smiled, grazed his cold cheekbone with my hot lips. I felt my blood pumping in my ears, in my chest, making me hot all over, and I felt big, too big, with my working muscles and sinews and nerves and bones covered in a layer of fat under my skin.

My mother squeezed my hand when she saw my face. "Baby," she said to my father, "D is here. From Israel."

"Tell him I'm happy to see him."

"You tell him you're happy to see him."

"I'm happy to see you." The girls clung to my skirt. I shifted Turtle on my hips, opened my mouth again, and let it hang that way for a minute. Did he see me? His eyes did not flicker, his face did not thaw. I let the babble that had been building up in the back of my throat spill out. "I miss you. We miss you. We think about you all the time. This is Turtle. He's really big, right? Like for his age? Everyone say he is. Turtle! Say hello! See, he's smiling, he's happy to see you."

My father makes an effort; his teeth are clasped together and I realize he's trying to make me feel better. He's trying to smile back.

I smile too, and suddenly, tears are spilling down my cheeks.

Abba!

The National Geographic reporter inside of me paused. Like a baby chick,she whispered. Because of the nose like a beak and his skinny cold body and his open mouth. Like he's waiting for feathers to grow.

Abba!

"I know," my mother said.

Abba!

"I know."


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