1 / FATIMA
Grandma is sitting in her rocking chair when I walk through the door. The television is showing an old episode of Perry Mason.
“You still up?”
She doesn’t answer. The chair is rocking; her eyes are closed. Can’t tell if she’s watching the TV or if it’s watching her.
The remote is in her lap. I try not to make too much noise as I walk through the dining room to where her chair is positioned in the living room. Grab the remote and hit the power off button.
“I was watching that.”
“Looked like the opposite to me.”
“What you see isn’t always how it looks,” she says with her eyes still closed.
I roll my eyes. Wish I would’ve gone straight home. Tonight is not the night for Grandma and her I-was-Confucius-in-my-past-life moments.
“What brings you by?”
I wonder the same thing myself. “Left a friend’s house not far from here. Wanted to stop by and see how you’re doing.”
She pulls her glasses down from the top of her head, checks the time. Looks up at me with questioning eyes. “It’s well after midnight. The only thing you’re going to see at this hour is me sleeping.” She yawns. “Now, tell me, what’s the real reason you’re here?”
I take a deep breath. Sit on the edge of the green sofa that’s been here for as long as I can remember. Try not to get too comfortable.
“I’m waiting,” she presses.
“It’s nothing. Really.”
“If it was nothing, you wouldn’t be here. Especially not at this hour.”
I exhale. “Guess I’m looking for answers.”
“Here we go again.” She straightens up in the rocking chair. “How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t have the answers, Fatima?”
My adrenaline pumps. “For some reason, I don’t believe you.”
“You saying I’m lying?”
I look at her with raised eyebrows. “You tell me.”
She gets up from her rocking chair. Stands in front of me with hands on her spreading hips. “Watch your mouth. I raised you with better manners than that. Didn’t let you talk to me like that as a child and I’ll be damned if I let you talk to me like you don’t have any sense now.”
I get up from my seat. Throw some gasoline on her growing fire. “Then quit treating me like a kid. I’m not far from thirty’s door and I have yet to know where my parents are. Don’t even know if they’re dead or alive. Do you even care? She’s your daughter, for goodness sake.”
My heart is beating so hard it feels like my chest is about to explode. Breathing is tight. An asthma attack is on the horizon. I grab my purse, search its contents for my inhaler. It’s not in there. It dawns on me . . . I don’t have asthma.
“You need to just let it go, Fatima. Look what it’s doing to you.”
I fume. “Why are you protecting her?”
My mother’s mother stares me down. Tries to understand my need to understand. “Why won’t you just leave well enough alone?”
I’ve tried to make it without my parents. Tried to live my life without thinking of them, wondering where they are. But every day, my struggle grows harder. Each day, I feel a piece of history drifting further away from me. Too many pieces of the puzzle are missing. If only Grandma would talk, give me some kind of clue. She’s stubborn as a mule; has always been that way.
“I can’t. As long as I have breath in my body, I’ll never leave it alone.”
“Sometimes the truth can kill you.”
With my keys in hand, I tell her, “Too late. I died a long time ago.”