“Janie, you should eat something.”
“Mamma, don’t call me Janie. I’m not five!”
You know that sigh moms get when they’re pulling their patience from somewhere only angels live? Yeah. That’s the sigh she gave me. “Janice, you need to eat.” The serious tone of voice came out.
“I’m not hungry, mamma.”
“I know, baby. I know.”
She smelled good, like freshly baked pie and flowers. The skin on her arms was soft as she held me, but I could feel the age in her bones. My crying didn’t seem to faze her.
“I’m tired, Mamma.”
She laid her head on top of mine. “I know.”
Sounds and lights and color. That’s all I remember. The sounds don’t make any sense in my memory, just a jumble missing any context. Disconnected, like on an amusement park ride. I don’t recall the impact. We were just moving, and then we weren’t. They say your life passes before your eyes when these things happen. ‘These things,’ nice and sanitized. ‘These things happen,’ they say, like that’s supposed to make it okay.
It was Thursday. That much I remembered. Jonie had ballet class and John’s plane arrived early, so I took her with me to pick him up. ‘Triple J,’ John called us, or his ‘J and the Jayettes,’ like we were some kind of rock band. Jonie loved it.
Nine-eleven came and went and life went back to being life. I can’t really say ‘normal,’ because the country changed after that. I changed. Jonie’s only six. She didn’t change, she wasn’t born yet. My baby knows how to say terrorist.
How do you pick up the pieces of your life after that? The ballet practice that will never come. They said, God, that if I wrote it down, You would answer. How? I only lost my left leg. They lost everything. My Jays, and the rest. The truck bomb got fifty-two people in one shot, and they say it was driven by a woman.
Was she missing when she left that day? Did her family look for her, frantic with worry? Or did they console each other, shake their heads, and say, ‘these things happen?’