There are traces of her all over the house. Instructions to “put the lasagna in the oven at 375 degrees for forty minutes and then to remove the tin foil top and let it bake for another 15-20, and don’t forget to reset the timer or you’ll burn it for sure. Mwahh! Be home soon.” Her to-do lists. Her voice coaching Isabel through her wobbly toddler steps. Her desk littered with articles marked to read later, as if later would come.
But it’s not just the house. I scan the surface of every room, every street corner, every express check-out line, because sometimes I find her when I least expect it. When I need a pick-me up—or a good cry—I go to the yoga studio where she left self-affirmations: “I am the architect of my life. I build it’s foundation. I lay the stones, and I choose what hangs on its goddamn walls.”
There’s the sidewalk in front of Isabel’s school. “Mommy loves you so much. You are smart and strong and perfect.” Then her brow scrunches and she cuts out before the tears come.
There’s the dirty joke she and Rebecca actually illustrated and left stamped to the bar at Spring Street.
And then there’s the café. Isabel must have hit record without either us knowing. There she sits. Just sits. Holding her coffee cup in both hands. Pulling the hair away from her eyes. Looking across at me. Smiling just a little. Sweeping up Isabel’s mess of crumbs with her sleeve. Reminding me about the dentist appointment. Listening to me tell her about the unbearably long, tense conference call at work. Which reminds her of something she just read, or did she hear it, or did she see it. She can’t remember, but she’s sure it must have been a week or go, maybe a week and a half. And then she flips through her tags, and hands me her phone, and then we touch.