My sister still sleeps in the hospital as I await my father’s phone call. There’s a cloud covering so thick, all flights have been canceled. I wonder if I will see her in time, before she makes the final transition. The rooms of my house grow accustomed to me — the walls crack and sigh like an old person preparing to speak. I wait and listen to hear the news, of new doorways opening, of one more person passing through.
I think what bothers me most about the fog is the way it can make you forget about what’s beyond it. The mountaintop I trace from my kitchen window on clear mornings loses its reality. Did it dress itself in sharper rock as I slept? If I wandered to its edges would it be there? So much depends on what we think we can see.
This morning, the fog drifts around me again, and the sky is the color of mirrors in dreams — vaguely gray and brushing out the details. I think of all the people lying just awake in bed, unsure of what time it is. How many of them are like me, grounded, waiting until they’ll be up in the air again?
There’s something sedating about this cold front that covers me, that makes waking up and falling asleep again rather like tiny surrenders. I want to retreat back to a comforting place that reminds me that my own heat is warmth enough, if I let it be. I think of how my sister will find herself newly alone in a room she once knew as familiar.
I remember how, as a child, I used to deny her of my blankets when she wandered into my room, dragging a quilt of nightmares behind her. I want to apologize to her now more than ever. When you get older, you try to see both sides of every issue. Sometimes things are, in fact, black or white. We try to force gray, push spears through the boundaries, create tints, invent a new shade. I can see the appeal to loneliness just as I understand the gravity of partnership. Right now, I wish I was standing in that room with everyone I’ve ever loved next to me.
My telephone rings. I answer it, expecting to hear the voice of the dead, reassuring me of mortgages in the next life. Instead, my father greets me. He tells me she’s passed.
“How long ago?” I ask.
“A few minutes. She’s beautiful,” I can hear him smile.
“Put the phone up to her ear,” I say, and wait a few seconds. “Hi sweetheart,” I say. I can hear a gentle breathing, the shifting of soft cotton. “I’m your uncle.”
Dad puts himself back on. “Sasha wants to talk to you.”
“Here,” he says.
“Nick,” my sister calls to me from the other side.
“How’re you not resting? You must be exhausted.”
“I wanted to make sure you knew. We hope to see you soon. We’ll wait for you before we celebrate the birth. We’ll wait for you,” she says, and through the phone, I can hear delicate brilliance, humming the way fluorescents do, and suddenly everything seems clearer.
— Mason Schoen is a creative writing graduate student.