Triptych: Motherhood
Matthew Salesses

images-2The month I turned five, my older sister, Dee, and I would catch Mom staring out of our Connecticut windows into the treacherous waters of the Black Sea, where my brother’s jet plane had gone down. Visitors would come with food or flowers, and talk about my dad, as if my brother’s loss was just an extension. It was easier to talk about the men, the wars, the past. They would all say a parent should never outlive her child, as if we hadn’t heard that one.

When we got older, we used to swim at Coventry Lake under a rock shelf that jutted far out over the water and where, during the drier months, a cave appeared like the back of a throat. Dee always blocked my way in. I got past her only once: slime layered the rocks and from inside, you saw only the circle of light from which you’d come, and the walls seemed like at any moment they would give way to another world. I hated to leave. On shore, Mom pressed my hands to her cheeks, her throat, like she wanted me to slap her, to choke her. I could feel her heart at the surface of her skin.

Now I visit the dunes alone. Dee writes that I am not too old to start again, though my nieces could technically have babies. People keep asking what I am looking for, as if they see loss in terms of found. I am watching the slow swell, the desert’s rise and fall—I mean everything that doesn’t last. The only one who never asks why I am here is Mom. If you come often enough, you start to see the wind in the shape of the sand.

Matthew Salesses is the author of I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying; The Last Repatriate; and, most recently, Different Racisms. Follow him @salesses.