by Hannah Grieco
“Did you seriously bring me another Lego set?”
You take the box and open it. Sit down on the floor next to your bed, knee brushing the rusted square bolt holding the frame leg in place. Scratches mark the gray institutional tile, from screwing the leg in too tight? From fingernails ripping, hands pulling?
I picture a thin, desperate boy rocking the leg back and forth. His t-shirt stretched at the neck like yours, chewed edges of the collar permanently stiff.
You separate the plastic bags of pieces, leaf through the directions. I pull up the thin blanket on your bed, tuck it in and fluff the pillow.
“The Guggenheim. This one’s expensive. You must really be worried about me,” you say and wink, only you don’t know how to wink, not really. You scrunch up your whole face and that sweetness fills me, tells my arms to pull you close, squeeze your bony back, pat your hair, course and curling now that you’re older. It used to be so soft and straight.
“I think you’re doing great,” I say instead.
You rip open each bag, one at a time sorting the parts in color-coded piles. You find a stray Lego that doesn’t belong, hold it up to the light.
“Star Wars,” you say. The kit I brought you three days ago. You put it together in two hours and it was gone when I visited the next day, along with your art supplies and books and even your teddy bear, thirteen years old and bald, patched. The room emptied. You wearing a hospital gown instead of clothes.
“How can you tell?” I ask.
“I wonder what they did with the rest of it.” You throw it out the open door into the hallway.
“Oh mom, good you’re here,” says Mary, your favorite nurse, as she walks in. “The doctor wants to meet with you before the big day.”
“Great,” you say. “Fuck that guy.”
“Honey,” says Mary. “Don’t talk like that.” And I laugh sharp and loud, then cough to cover it, fooling nobody. You laugh too, though, like a little boy.
Mary smiles. She hasn’t seen our piano bench, where you carved a list of the worst words you knew with the paring knife you took off the kitchen counter. Fuck you bitch cunt cunt cunt
“Sorry,” you say. “Sorry, Miss M.”
kill me you fucking bitch
She ruffles your hair and winks for real at me. “10:30 work?” she asks.
Hannah Grieco is a writer in Arlington, VA. Find her online at http://hgrieco.com and on Twitter @writesloud.