Journey of a lifetime

They cut into the ocean in a perfectly perpendicular line. Their color changes depending on how much of the rock is submerged in water in low or high tides and how much sunlight reflects on their smooth surface, but it is always a version of black. They disappear when the moon brings the ocean far inland. In low tides more of them appear, covered in green moss that dries quickly in the summer sun. No one knows how much more is underground, perhaps a whole mountain, and that unknown brings me back to nursing the thought of my mother dying. I think of the underground mountain, how it expands towards the center of the earth, how it pushes deep into the waves towards the horizon, and I wonder if she even died.

It happened two decades ago. My father told me on the phone that Sunday that my mother kind of left. This is exactly how he described it, she left. He told me that he was getting ready for the Sunday early morning mass when my mother came back from the bathroom and went back to bed. She watched my father putting on his button-down shirt and with great excitement announced that she absolutely loved the flower pattern. My father paused because the shirt he was putting on was blue, plain blue. My mother marveled over the flower design, describing some of the flowers, including roses, and then announced with amusement that the flowers started moving—growing and blooming right there on my father’s shirt. In that moment my father knew that he would have to miss the Sunday mass. He sat on the bed next to my mother and they talked about the flowers on his shirt. My mother’s face betrayed nothing but the utmost delight. She touched my father’s arms and chest, all the places where the flowers were blooming. Soon, the flowers escaped my father’s shirt and spilled over the bed, covering the comforter and pillows. My mother’s eyes traced what was happening with happiness of a child. When she asked my father how it was possible, he thought she was asking about the flowers, but she wasn’t. She was asking how it was possible to see this much beauty at once. After flowers came people. She looked around the bedroom and asked my father who were all these people in the room, and he told her—with all the reason in the voice he could muster—that they came to visit because they loved her. She looked at the people she saw, at the flowers she saw, and then she looked at my father, straight into his eyes, and said: “Jurek, I am dying,” and she closed her eyes.

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