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The Nurse Who Loved Me
Feelings are complicated, like when I’m at Target and observe a mother and daughter browsing near me in the clothing section. I feel a pang as I hear them laughing, understanding a language they’ve cultivated from years of Knowing–their interests, their preferences, the way their hearts beat. I feel envy, anger, sadness.
I breathe in, try to ground myself, and appreciate the small gestures of love I’m witnessing. These moments are beautiful, intimate, almost foreign now, as I realize it has been nearly 15 years–15!–since I could have such an exchange with my mother. I’ve been obsessed with the number recently, shocked at how much time has passed, gobsmacked that for as much as it’s gotten easier, it’s become so much fucking harder, too. 15 years, I think again, hearing them laughing about a shirt they see. 15 years without my mother’s laugh, her wry sense of humor. I miss my mom, I miss my mom, I miss my mom. Why Do I Miss Her? Why is this happening now, looking for sweatshirts on a Monday?
The mother tells the daughter that the shirt she is eyeing will look cute on her, that she likes it. I continue to make my decisions on my own, now used to having to politely apologize to sales clerks when I come out of dressing rooms when I’m just not sure if I like the way a garment drapes or masks my body. I look at the shirt I’ve selected, Would she like this? What would she say about this fit? They laugh again: Appreciation. Envy. Pain. I study the girl’s face when she’s not looking. She’s younger than me, closer to the age I was when I first started to lose my mother. They smile at each other, browsing the racks. You will know soon enough, I think, sympathetically, sadistically, imagining her in mourning clothes, hugging near-strangers, accepting their condolences, numb, empty, oblivious to the ways the loss will grow and fade and stretch forever and ever and eve