I sat alone in the waiting room at the emergency building with no one to speak to. The older woman sitting across from me looked down at her lap where she held a photograph delicately in her hands. She gazed at it lovingly, caressing it. My eyes scanned her body – no sign of her purse. I wondered who she was; why she was here.
Maybe she wondered why I was here, too. Among all the other strangers around me, she was the only one who had caught my attention. Although I was worried about my husband’s well-being, I needed to speak to someone. My husband, Tony, didn’t know I was here, and he didn’t know I was aware of his construction accident at the job.
My nerves always got the best of me in these situations, but I felt more curious about the woman.
I marveled at the photograph she held. My body and feet responded to this thought; I stood up and walked to the seat beside her. Shifting and sitting, I could see the photograph showed a handsome young man dressed with a gangster flare. He wasn’t smiling; he looked very serious, reminding me of my husband’s expression whenever he was asked to smile. Tony never smiled.
“Your son?” I asked finally.
I looked at her. As a pregnant woman waiting for my child to be born, I was anxious to visit the hospital to give birth to my son – the doctor had already told me the sex – but for most people, this place was dreaded and I wondered why she was here.
She looked at me and smiled, nodding. “He’s twenty-one.”
I eyed her closely, this time wondering how old she was. She looked too old to have a twenty-one-year-old son. Her face showed lines of aging; her hair was almost fully white.
“Oh, your grandson, you mean.”
The woman’s eyes flared in anger, but they quickly softened. I winced, wishing I hadn’t offended her. I knew I had heard her calling the man in the picture her son, but I couldn’t see the connection.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that …”
“I look like his grandmother. I know, sweetie.”
I bit my lower lip, thinking of how I would feel if I was mistaken for my child’s granny.
Before addressing me, her eyes fell on the picture once more. “He’s been twenty-one for a long time.” Her breath caught in her throat. “He died.”
My hands went to my mouth in shock. He seemed too young to die! Then, hoping for a healthy child, my hands immediately fell on my stomach as I silently wished him a very long life.
“I didn’t mean to shock you, child, but age is no stranger to death.” She sighed. “When one enters the world, another one leaves. My child was no different.”
Her words hit a reality that I wasn’t expecting. Thinking of a child coming and another one dying saddened me. The child in my womb felt like a sacrifice for another’s life in exchange.
Noticing my belly for the first time, she apologized. “I’m still bitter after all of these years. I’m sorry, my child, this is all too hard to recall.”
I touched her hand, wanting to end the apologies. “Please tell me about your son,” I said. “Tell me his story.”
Her elderly eyes widened in amazement. Truthfully, my curiosity had gotten the best of me. I wanted to learn more about what the silent young man had to offer. I wanted to hear from his loved one, his mother. The one woman he had loved his whole life. The mother-to-be in me wanted to hear about this mother’s child.
“He was very loving – and, of course, he loved music as the kids do nowadays. I haven’t talked about him for so long.” She looked at the picture, then at her old, lined hands. She sighed. “But I can show you.”
Did she have magical hands? My heart skipped a beat in excitement. “Are you a witch?” I whispered. She didn’t answer.
“I knew that you were curious, I sensed that much about you,” she said instead. “Do you want to know about my son?”
“Would this affect my pregnancy?” I asked, putting my hands on my full belly.
“Granny will take care of him, I promise. I’ll let you see his life through my eyes – but the emotions of his death … those are my cross to carry.”
I gave her my hand, although I hesitated one last time. My unborn child’s health worried me; with no news about my husband, I had to be awake for him. I took my hand back in my hesitation. I hardly knew her. “My child must not be harmed,” I insisted.
“I was a mother, child.” She reached out and took my hand again.
At first, her touch felt soft and welcoming … then I didn’t feel anything at all.