The city is still gritty and muddy and brown, and we’re mostly still wearing black, and I have a hard, hard pebble lodged under my skin, deeply housed in the muscle that carries me. But we’re waking up after a very long sleep, and we’re outside again, walking on the dusty sidewalks, and the ice on the river is breaking up, and the sky is blue this afternoon. And when I left my student yesterday she leaned out her open window where the wind was whipping her curtains around, and shouted something, and I felt a spark of something I’d almost forgotten.
She and I are working on English language skills, but we’re working on so much more. She asks if my husband is a good man. I tell her he is, and she crosses her arms over her heart in gratitude. When I tell her she’s done an excellent job reading a story we’ve been working on for a while now, she grins suddenly, puts up her hand, and says, “high five!” When she meets a new neighbour in the hallway she shouts his name and embraces him.
She is teaching me about the magnificent size of our spirits, about just how much grief a single person can carry with dignity. She lowers her eyes and tells me a few more bits of her story, and I tell her I’m so sorry for her loss. She can’t look at me. I put my hand on her leg and suggest she misses terribly her husband and the children she has lost. She doesn’t seem to know exactly what I mean by this, and says only that she has become very tired, but I see tears slip down her beautiful cheeks. I feel tired too, just thinking about her losses. Grief does that, I remember as she speaks, it makes us tired.
So we sleep, we sleep, sometimes for months and months at a time. And then the mountains of ice begin to break up, and we feel a little less tired, and I think I may feel inspired enough to try dislodge that other old pebble again.