Right away, the old mother was drawn to the girl at the end of the table who sat clutching a stuffed animal, her mascaraed eyes staring straight ahead.
How could the mother not be reminded of her own beautiful daughter? From the million images tessellating in her head, one arose of her daughter sitting up in a hospital bed, clinging to her stuffed puppy as doctors announced, “You’re eighteen. So you’re the adult in charge.” And now, here was this unknown almost-adult girl seated across the table, hugging her stuffed animal and looking dazed. Why was this girl here?
“ …When my mom died,” the girl said, shortly after. Then something inside the mother burst. “My mom won’t be here for my graduation, or when I get married, or when I have kids,” the girl continued, and the old mother remembered for the billionth time that her own daughter would never get to graduate college, get married or have kids.
She had watched her daughter suffer and wondered why she herself hadn’t been the one to get cancer. Maybe in a different dimension of existence, in an alternate reality or some parallel universe, things were different. In another world her daughter might still be alive. But here, in this world, at the other end of the table was a daughter who lost her mother.
Suddenly the girl sat down next to the mother. The girl’s eyes were even more radiant up close, with a familiar hint of opalescent eye shadow and perfectly painted waterproof mascara. There was much the old woman would have liked to say to the girl but she couldn’t find her words, couldn’t begin, and now the girl was so close, smiling and crying at the same time. Tears ran down both their faces.
“I’m gonna get a tattoo with my mom’s name,” the girl said.
“I have a tattoo,” the mother said, peeling off her sweater to show the girl her shoulder tattooed with her daughter’s name. “Can you read it?” the mother asked. “Yes. That’s right. It’s Marika.” The girl beamed.
“And who’s this?” the mother asked, already knowing, pointing to the stuffed animal the girl clung to, thinking of the stuffed puppy she’d given her own daughter at birth and now kept on the mantle in the middle of her house (and kissed goodnight most nights). The girl held out her fuzzy stuffed dog.
“My mother gave it to me,” she said, turning it over to show the stitched-on tag that spelled LOVE ME.