She awoke to her grandmother murmuring in her head, lay on her side for a few moments, eyes closed, listening. This is where the dead go, this is their afterlife, where they grow. Was that the song she used to sing to her, was she there singing to her as she slept?
Let me stay here with her, not open my eyes into a world without her, let me stay curled up inside myself and feel the beauty of those familiar words, that form of speech uniquely hers, that voice as deep as any voice within me, that comes up from my roots.
The sun in the window, the whole world in bloom outside, high summer, heat, blue skies and there she lies, listening to the dead, hearing her own thoughts as though they were the voices of strangers, arguing, cajoling, jockeying for position, mingling and dividing.
She can hear him moving around downstairs. One must be careful whose voice they allow access to join in that great and ancient dispute. Once in they are not easily removed. Her grandmother, toward the end spoke of people from her childhood, distant relatives who she had not seen for seventy years, minor figures whose sudden significance perplexed the rest of the family, but who had been there within her, attending to their secret, central work, unknown to the mind that hosted them.
Even if I leave now, will I ever be free of him? Will I hear his voice striking through the great soft collapse, that house of signs and voices coming down all around me, when I am old?
I need a voice that chimes in with all the others, that lends itself to that polyphony, a voice I know, that redoubles back my own, enlarges me. Let me be as many people as possible through him, not reduced and hacked at, pruned away, stifled.
Murdered, she almost thought, then checked herself involuntarily. He would say that was melodramatic. He would have some complex argument against everything she thought she needed.
She will always have, at least, her grandmother’s voice there to soothe her, her nightly visits, the distant glow of her love and goodness.
“Breakfast!” he shouts up the stairs. He is trying to be kind after last night, but still, it sounds like a command.
She opens her eyes, sun in the windows. Everyone scurrying for their hiding places.