Kimberlie Robinson: Boaz's Wife

Fall '10 TOC

            Instead of the spring smell of gardenias rising from the flowerbed below my parent’s bedroom the scent of charred flesh permeates everything. Dad and I help Mom out of the tub. It’s been hard for her to walk. Her back is fully burned, scarred down to the buttocks. She no longer hides her nakedness from me. She is completely open and raw. She stands as my Dad gently towels her unharmed skin dry. I stand to her side ready to catch her in case she loses her balance. She raises her arms as he shifts the towel in front of her body. She brings down her arms gripping the towel close to her sides. He doesn’t dare touch newly grafted skin on her back. It’s still too tender too fresh and new, new skin learning to adhere to old muscles. Dad turns to me. “Sweetheart, we’re low on the gauze. I think there’s a new box in the kitchen.” I walk out of the bedroom heading downstairs. Next to the kitchen door is a large box from hospital.

            That day, Mom left us taking medical supplies to Gaza. Dad called her soon after. Told her she needed to get out. An old friend of his in the Army, a higher up, called my Dad out of respect. Said that there was to be an offensive assault. He knew my mother was there and even though he did not like my mother’s work in the Strip, he loved and respected my father. He picked up the phone when the orders came through. She had had plenty of time to leave but she didn’t. She spent that precious time warning her friends there to seek shelter. Somehow she managed to get out a message before the cell phone signals were scrambled, “I’ll wait it out. I love you.”

            Mom knew the sound of F-16s. We’d all heard them many times before. She and the Palestinian woman, Fatima, were upstairs in the house trying to get Fatima’s bed ridden father down the stairs. The only thing she remembered was moving to grab the covering from the nearby chair to make a sling of some sort to carry the old man down the stairs in. When the whistle came, she turned to Fatima and saw terror in her eyes. The last thing she heard her say in Arabic was, “No time.”

            Somehow Mom knew instinctively to curl up. Expose the back; protect the inner organs, face and head. Hold the breath. She didn’t remember the impact or the days that followed. Fatima’s husband returned to the rubble of his home looking for his wife and father-in-law. He only found my mother, still curled up, unconscious, barely breathing. The blast had somehow thrown her to the bottom of the staircase the rubble that fell on her protected her from the worst impact of the blast. Through his tears he lifted my mother from the rubble, carrying her the ten kilometers to the border crossing waving the copies of her American and Israeli passports that she always carried on her person.

            Before the bomb, the only time she would let me get close to her was late at night after she and Dad had been together. She would always leave him sleeping and go to her studio. I would hear the soft padding of her feet going down the staircase, the sound of the back door opening then closing. I’d wait fifteen or twenty minutes, stop in the kitchen and make her a cup of tea.

            Her hands skillfully molded the clay as the wheel turned. “You know you’ve got school tomorrow,” she’d say not even looking up at me as I placed the tea by the table next to her. She’d take a ribbon tool flipping her wrist over and under creating a beautiful pattern as she spun the wheel. “How do you do that?” I’d ask. She’d gently take my hand placing it on top her her’s. I’d close my eyes and feel the steady rhythm of her hand and trying to follow.

            The bombs brought my mother to me. When the flames burned her flesh it burned away her fears of embracing me. Before, she was afraid that she might betray me. Afraid that any sign of affection might tear down my walls leaving me vulnerable to her. When I was born, she walked away leaving me in my father’s arms. She came back to us when I was six months old. By then, I was my father’s little girl and her guilt and fear made her keep her distance.

            In the hospital after she refused the respirator and the drugs and when she thought she was dying, she asked for me. She asked for me for days before I agreed to come. When I did, I sat away from her afraid of her smell; fearful of the say she writhed as if trying to escape her painful flesh. She wept, her words punctuated by desperate, hurried breaths, “I didn’t know how to get it out of me. These things, they run dark and deep. She was cruel, my mother. The woman I thought was my mother. It had to have been awful for her, her husband’s bastard child living in her house. I loved you. I knew the instant you were there. All that love than all that fear of hurting you, like she’d hurt me. Couldn’t take the chance. But I loved you. I couldn’t stay away. Couldn’t stay away. I thought if I held back, maybe…but I hurt you anyway. I’m so sorry. It’s my burden. Not yours. You have to promise you’ll let me take this. Please, it’s not yours. Not…” She passed out from the pain her breath slowing down and became deeper.

            I hear her breath now. Quick and deep. The gauze in my hand is light and will feel good to her new skin. I hear my parents whispering, then the sound of a deep kiss. I turn the corner and see my Dad, his arms gently around my Mom, careful not to touch her new skin. His lips are pressed against her shoulder. She sees me and playfully pushes him away. She says his name and smiles, “Abraham.”

            She walks on her own to the bed, my father following close behind arms raised ready to catch her in case she falls. I watch her not exhaling until she reaches the bed. She bends forward carefully catching herself with her braced hands. She lifts one knee then the other painfully crawling on top of the crisp sheets. Finally, she rests on her stomach. The phone rings. Dad says, “That’s my conference call. I won’t be long.” He leans over and kisses her on the forehead and walks out. I move to dab away the sweat on her forehead.

            I spread the long sheets of gauze over her new skin. She slowly lifts one side of her body then the other so I can tuck the ends beneath her. I cover her legs up to her thighs with a thick blanket, then one arm then the other. When finished, I rest next to her. She lets me stroke her hair and face which are moist from the exertion. Her breath is harried. “You ok, Mommie?”

            “Um, hum. A little tired though. Think I’ll take a nap. You get your homework done?”

            I lie, “Yes.”

            “Sit with me until your dad comes back then?”

            “Ok.”

            She smiles at me.

:: TOC ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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