Saturday 18 June 2022

'Souvenirs' by Susie Aybar

It’s Wednesday morning, my aunt sits in a wheelchair in her family room. She watches Home Shopping Network for a few minutes, then gets back into bed. Her bones in her face form sharp edges, her chin triangular now.

I spent summers doing back dives at my aunt’s pool in Ontario. She’s the one who made my mom take my orange water wings off and let me swim by myself. My family drove to Canada through December blizzards for Christmas, thawing the turkey in a Buffalo, New York hotel sink once. That Christmas, my aunt made cake donuts and handknit outfits for my Cabbage Patch dolls.

Later Wednesday, my uncle goes out, picks up wipes and takeout. In a loud whisper, my aunt calls for us. Her legs dangle, twisted at the end of the California King. My sister and I find the pads beneath her, pull her up in the bed. My aunt’s legs are exposed and heavy with fluid from her ailing heart. We untangle her, cover her with the floral duvet. It smells like her old house, musty and comfortable.

I copy my sister like when she taught me to play Jacks and ride my bike on the grass. My sister lies on the bed, kisses my aunt on the forehead. Then I do it, too. My aunt talks about the cabin my cousin is building. I’m going to say something else. This is our last time talking. Though, I just think it. We leave Thursday.

Niagara Falls are still rushing in winter and the water sprays from them like it’s baptizing something. Though February is relentless ice, and parts of the falls are frozen. Snow surrounds us. It doesn’t seem right, but we buy souvenirs from Duty Free, tiny Canadian flags, red maple leaf socks.


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