Family Anatomy: Branches

And I have been following you. Watching your years wither on the vine, the most ordinary, most extraordinary branches of your life. Not as someone who keeps notebooks and photographs tacked to the wall in a gaudy display of obsession, but quietly and unobtrusively.

I know you’ve been married twice. I know you have two daughters. I know you had a restraining order on your first husband, until he drove his Pontiac into a ravine. It’s hard to swim inside a Trans Am. Is he still hooked up to a hospital bed in Marietta? I haven’t followed through on that. Because I need to leave you alone, and I know you need that, too.

I hear about you from the family, when I bother to contact them. Missy Partridge heard you were planting cabbage two summers ago, Cousin Henry said you were thinking of studying for a real estate license. Martha Holdray from Flipp’s Drugs said you started wearing reading glasses. Hank Godfrey said you sometimes sent poetry to literary magazines but haven’t heard anything back. Small things. The flavor of old crumbled herbs. I have never asked to see your photograph. Cousin Beth says you’ve put on a few pounds after your first daughter was born, a few more after the second. She said you bleached your hair, hated it, and then cut it short until your natural color back. You clip coupons, belonged to Weight Watchers, and then went vegan. You’re separated from your second husband, Don, who drove truck for Marshall’s until the price of diesel went up. I know you don’t know that I’ve kept track of you all these years. And why? I don’t know. It’s like rubbing a sore tooth with the tongue, scratching a bleeding wound. Because I know you’re still there, a part of me that won’t go away.

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