Invocations Before Spring Arrives
Grace writes his name on a small, torn piece of paper with a Bic pen. She folds it twice, crisscrosses blue thread across the square she has made, sets it in a clear plastic storage container that is filled half-way with water, seals the lid, and places it in the freezer.
No harm. No harm. No harm.
The freezer lives in a kitchen that lives in a room with a twin bed and the front door to the apartment that Grace lives in. She is cold because she is not standing in front of the small heating fan pointed toward the twin bed. The thermostat is switched off to keep the electricity bill low. Grace spends most of her time on the bed, save for dashes to the bathroom – the only other room in the apartment. She wants to slip back under the quilt her grandmother made, to hear the squeak that the bed’s metal frame makes as she pulls her knees to her chest and submits to the whir of the heating fan. Instead, Grace slips into a long, black wool coat big enough for a woman twice her size, buttons up, and walks out into February.
Grace turns just enough to see if there is anyone to her right, and then to her left, when she comes to the first street corner between her apartment and the bus stop where she will wait in the frigid rain. She bends her knees and lowers her body so that the pennies and pink-papered candies that she releases from her grip will fall too softly for anyone who might pass by to notice. She drops pennies and sweets (slipped from a glass bowl in front of a bank teller’s window) at each intersection for seven blocks.
Mr. Bailey waits at the door of the Federalist style four bedroom, three bathroom brick home where Grace looks after Mr. and Mrs. Bailey’s son, Joshua. Mr. Bailey’s fingers tap the brass doorknob as he looks for Grace to come into view. He does not know that her third, and final, bus was caught in traffic.
I’m here! I’m here, Mr. Bailey!
Grace quickens her pace when she notices Mr. Bailey’s eyes widen once she is in his sights, nearly slipping on the petite white stones leading up to the tall, wide house. He calls for his wife.
Still asleep, Mrs. Bailey says before hurrying out with her husband.
Grace goes to Joshua’s room, where he waits in his honey-colored crib. A cluster of stars, surrounding a crescent moon, hangs over his head. She unbuttons her coat and lets it slide off onto the floor. She will put it back on before Mrs. Bailey arrives home at six o’clock.
Grace wants Joshua to wake up so she can hold him. She wants to feel his warmth and press her face into his neck – to take in the smell of baby powder and the sweet staleness of dried baby saliva. She wants it so much that Joshua stirs for a moment and then opens his eyes fully to look at her. Grace picks him up and notices how much heavier he is than the week before.
Good morning, sweet Joshua, she sings before burying her face in his neck like she imagined. Joshua squeals and kicks his legs as though he is a tiny motor that will carry them off somewhere only babies know about. She strokes his legs and moves them to the side of her growing belly, so much bigger than the week before.
When the house is quiet Grace wonders if she should have gone about things differently. She should have dropped silver coins at the street corners. She should have used stronger thread. She should have used a bold, black permanent marker to write his name on the paper now frozen and suspended in the plastic container. She should have buried it in wet, dark earth far from where she lives.