This came to me this evening,
as I was washing dishes,
and I heard my husband’s voice —
but not his voice really,
but rather his voice from twenty years ago,
from an era when he wore a grizzled beard cropped close to the skin,
and smelled of Sedona sweat,
and we hiked down the Grand Canyon
and back up, in a single day,
traversing the ice together at the start,
and descending to the heat of the desert floor,
where I dunked my hair in the cool river
and let it flow down my back in snow-water drenched tendrils.
I can still feel his eyes on me too,
as we hiked out of the canyon.
I knew he was there…and that he always would be.
I also sometimes hear my grandmother in my head…
even though she has been gone for fifteen years now —
and mostly left a while before that.
But, she woke from a long slumber the day before she died.
She heard my grandfather’s voice from someplace
only she could recognize.
And, she spoke to him,
her voice raspy and weak,
her pulse flickering at her throat.
But, I could still hear the passion of their youth,
the angst of his death,
the pain when a nurse at the home told her that it was disrespectful
to wear red nail polish
the day you sprinkled your husband’s, of sixty years, ashes on a mountaintop,
even though he loved red nail polish on her.
She heard him, and I heard her,
and I will never be able to not hear that conversation,
or forget that I was the one who painted her nails red.
And I hear my mother too —
the voice of madness.
I remember the day when I was six,
and came home from school to find my grandma in the kitchen,
with my mother’s apron on.
And my mother wasn’t there.
She suddenly had an illness that has haunted her for most of her life now —
an illness in which one hears voices.
But, those voices aren’t actually there.
And I hear my father too.
I can hear him when he made a little half-grunt, half “ah-ha”
when he figured out some incomprehensible equation that stretched across
six computer screens —
three on top, three on the bottom,
glowing green against the black background,
or when he would chuckle at his own jokes before anyone even understood
that he had told one.
And I hear him again, my husband,
remembering one night as we lay amidst tumbled sheets, slick with the sweat of love.
I asked how much he loved me.
When we were younger, the answer was always, “infinitely.”
But that night he said “two.”
“Two what,” I asked, half asleep, nuzzled under his arm.
“Two infinities,” he said.
And, I remember a more recent night,
when I lay somnolent, sprawled across his chest,
a leg draped over his torso,
and I asked him the same question.
And he answered, “to infinity and beyond.”
(Alton LOVES Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear)
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