Imagine you are 4. The county fair is loud and noisy. You look up, and realize the pair of legs you have been following are not your mom’s. You turn around wildly. Your eyes brim with terror and confusion. You cry out. She rushes over to you, saying, “It’s okay, my darling. I’m right here. I was here all along.”
You are 28. The doctor says it’s early yet, don’t get too attached. But you are attached. Your cells grow side by side. Days later, the blood leaves you and you have never felt so empty.
You are 16. You have never seen the intricate underside of your car, the one you spent two summers saving for. But there it is, smoking in the sun. You stare at, amazed you crawled out alive. Your phone is in your pocket. You wonder what he will say. Were you going too fast? Yes. Did you screw up? Big time. You know I still love you? Yes, Dad. I know.
You are 30. She’s six months. She won’t stop crying. She. Won’t. Stop. Crying. You hop in the shower for five minutes, just five minutes please. She wails. You coo from behind the curtain, “I’m right here. Mommy’s right here.” You dry off and scoop her up. Her cries cease. You are her home.
You are 9. Your teacher tells you about things you can’t imagine. Trails of tears. Auction blocks of tears. Camps of tears. Your classmates jabber, “That’s crazy! Why did people do that? Man if I had been there, I would’ve fought on the right side. They don’t do stuff like that today, right?” Your teacher sighs. She doesn’t know what to say.
You are 23. The gangs have spread like a contagion to your village. Your husband has gotten mixed up in it. You told him you didn’t want it in your home. He took you he didn’t have a choice. He tries to leave. You hear what they will do to you if he does. What they will do to your daughter.
You start walking.
You are 5. It is your first day of kindergarten. The boy beside you is crying. Your mom says she will pick you up in a few hours. You believe her, you think. The teacher smiles warmly. You are happy. You are happier to go home.
You are 8. Your dad has carried you for the last several hours. It is hot and your water bottle is empty. You ask your dad if he is sure they will let you in. When they hear what we’ve been through, of course, my son, of course. It is s nation of people running away. Their founders were men like us, he tells you. Men running away from a country that did not want them, men committed to building a better life. They will understand. You ask again if he’s sure. He is silent. A minute later he tells you, “No matter what, I will be with you.”
You are 45. You see pictures of crying babies and your stomach churns. You turn off the news. Everything is so depressing these days. Why bother paying attention.
You are 26. The doctor places the scrawny, bloody alien on your chest. Something overwhelms you, but you cannot put a word on the feeling. Is it love? Is it fear? You vow everything. You promise everything.
You are 12 and you wake screaming. Your mom rushes in to your room, whispering. It’s okay. It was just a bad dream. You ask if you can sleep in her bed, just tonight. She smiles and says you haven’t asked that it a long time. You make her promise not to tell anyone.
Imagine you are 4. The room is loud and noisy. You look up, and realize the pair of legs you have been following are not your mom’s. You turn around wildly. Your eyes brim with terror and confusion. You cry out. She does not come.
Imagine you are 4, and now you live in a cage.