Nonfiction / Chanel Earl
:: Names Are Always Changed to Protect the Innocent ::
So when I say that tomorrow my nephews, Peter, James, and John, will be interviewed by the police, and that afterward it will be decided if they will live with one or the other of their parents, you know their names have been changed.
And when I write that my friend Lazarus—who is seven years old and spent the last twelve months receiving regular injections of chemical poison through a port in his chest—just returned from a trip to Disney World, and decided—after losing his leg, his hair, and most of his body weight—to stop chemo, that his name has been changed too.
So have the names of his parents, Phillip and Mary, who have four healthy children, and will soon have four in the ground. I’ll call the other three—who never took in their first breaths—Bartholomew, Tabitha, and Matthew, and—for my sake, not theirs—imagine a mountain of flowers on their graves.
I sit and write in silence, and I know that Anna, Elizabeth, and Thomas are asleep in the next room. Elizabeth has strep throat, which has progressed into scarlet fever. Just a hundred years ago I would have been up all night wondering if this was our last, but I have been instructed to relax because she took antibiotics, and the doctor insists she can go to school tomorrow.
I go to her when she cries. Her forehead is still covered with bright pink spots, and I place my hands on her face and whisper, Everything will be okay. Our breathing aligns. Thomas rolls over. He is having a dream. And I know we are all going to lose each other someday, but I can’t believe that matters right now because my name is Martha, and I am going to feel this moment, and the next, and always the next.
From the writer
:: Account ::
Everything in this piece is true. One evening while processing the pain of my sister as she went through a divorce, the pain of my friend whose son was dying of cancer, and my own worry about my four-year-old daughter’s scarlet fever diagnosis, I got really worked up about the innocence of the children and parents involved in every one of these situations. I ate ice cream, and cried, and made lists about what I could do to help. Then this came out. I have tried many times to turn this piece into a poem, adding line breaks and playing with the rhythm. Ultimately, it is and remains a micro-essay about a moment in my life. A moment of grief, confusion, and the realization of mortality.
Chanel Earl is a recent MFA graduate, a mother of four, and an aspiring gardener. Her work has appeared in print and online. For more information about her and her writing, visit chanelearl.com.