At the beach, Rosa looks out as far as she can. The world, she thinks.
Her father brings the pail and shovel from the car. They sit scooping
sand into the pail, filling it. Rosa's hands are small, have so much
At work, Rosa notices people want their work days to go by quickly.
They want to feel they're spending as little time at work as possible.
This can only happen if the day feels like it's going by quickly.
Rosa's sister rolls around in the sand. Rosa laughs. Rosa's sister
rolls all the way to the water. She rolls into the water and splashes
her arms and legs. The air glistens around her and Rosa watches
Rosa's sister stands and runs into the water and dives in. Rosa looks
at her father who smiles. There is no one else on the beach. Rosa
thinks of the shore curving around on itself the same way she thinks
of her father smiling.
Rosa weeps hysterically when her father dies. She is six. Her mother
holds her in her arms. Rosa asks what happened. Rosa's mother says,
Rosa says, "So, that's it, just, we get born and then die."
"I'm afraid to say, 'Yes'," Rosa's mother says.
Rosa gets up and runs to the bathroom. She looks at herself in the
mirror, pulling her cheek down to look inside the bottom lip of her
eyelid. She pulls the skin of her other cheek. She presses her mouth's
lips together. Her mouth's lips quiver.
Rosa's mother walks into the bathroom and sits on the edge of the
bathtub. Rosa pulls her hair over her face, cries. Rosa's mother pulls
Rosa close and hugs her. Rosa says, "I don't understand."
At work, Rosa wonders why anyone would want their day to go by
quickly. To get home and spend a little time to themselves, only to
have to return the next day to work where they hope they don't feel
they're spending too much time? Would their lives not feel smaller?
Shorter? Why would anyone want their life to be shorter?
Rosa's mother is afraid to speak.
Rosa brings the cake out and begins to sing. Merrill opens his eyes.
There are candles in the cake like chimneys, and the room is dark. The
candles are lit as if from the inside, as if the cake is home to
twenty-nine prefab wood-burning fireplaces.
"Aren't I a little too old for birthdays," Merrill says.
Rosa says, "Not for another few years."
"Next year, I want to jump naked out of my cake."
Rosa says, "I'll make sure to invite everyone."
A lot of people seem to be having birthdays this year, Merrill thinks,
but feels he can't quantify the thought's accuracy.
Rosa makes coffee. She says, "Coffee."
Merrill thinks Rosa says, "Coffin." Merrill says, "No, thanks."
In bed, Merrill holds himself, pushes himself inside Rosa.
Rosa says, "Don't cry."
"I miss feeling nostalgic," Merrill says.
Rosa says, "One day, when you're older, you'll look back on this
moment and think fondly of the time you missed feeling nostalgic."
Merrill is a child. One day, Merrill's father says Merrill can't touch
something anymore. "Don't touch that anymore," Merrill's father says.
It might break if Merrill touches it. It's fragile, irreplaceable.
So many things in this house are like it. Merrill's father puts his
enormous hand on Merrill's shoulder.
In the park, Rosa sees a woman singing to her baby. The woman sits
under a tree with the baby and cradles the baby in her arms and sings
to the baby.
Rosa wants to cry.
She begins to cry.
Rosa thinks, When you're in love, you think you are in love. The baby
makes a sound with its mouth while the mother makes a sound with her
The mother looks young.
She looks happy.
The baby looks happy.
Rosa sits under a tree, crosses her legs and tucks her bangs behind
her ear. By showing my face, she thinks, I am hiding.
Rosa leans against the tree. She closes her eyes and listens to the
mother singing to the baby.
The mother's voice is a sound Rosa imagines being unable to see
through. Rosa feels she can reach out into the air, catch the mother's
voice like a butterfly.
Wind exists only for mothers who sing to their babies.
One day Rosa's womb says "Helen." Rosa's womb speaks loudly, so loud
Rosa can hear nothing else. Merrill crouches beside Rosa on the floor,
holding her arm, saying "Rosa" again and again. Rosa, barely able to
open her eyes, can only read his lips.
Merrill's lips, Merrill's lips moving, saying "Rosa, Rosa," Rosa
reading them silently to herself. Rosa's womb wants to speak of other
Merrill watches Rosa sing to Helen. He watches from the hall through
the half-open bedroom door.
Rosa feels consumed by stretch marks. They feel like the undulating,
fluid, amoebic patterns of camouflage. Rosa feels she is disappearing
Merrill watches Helen crawl across the floor. She has such small hands
that want to hold so much. There isn't enough to give her.
Merrill's father's hand on his shoulder. The past is inevitable.
Merrill's father was only a child. Rosa's mother would be proud.
Merrill watches Rosa sing to Helen.
Merrill is angry at life for ever happening.