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Mimi, I Never Left
Mimi is absolutely the most beautiful person I’ve ever known, and ever will know, in my entire life. The way she’d smile, all pearly white and toothy, nearly made my heart melt every time. Her curled, black hair always bounced at her shoulders when she ran – usually out of joy. The way she’d fit in my hugs is something I’ll always remember. Her small arms couldn’t quite fit around my body yet, so she’d settle for my neck when I’d pick her up and spin her around, holding her tight.
“Mimi,” I told her one Monday morning, nearly spitting out one of her shiny black curls in the midst of a hug from her. “I know it’s going to be all day, but I will be back soon, alright?”
“Well, let’s see. You know how that clock says it’s eight-fifteen?”
Pulling away from me, she set her eyes to the digital clock on the cable box set below our small, box TV. Mimi nodded. “I’ll be back when it says four-fifteen.”
Despite the effort to help her tell time, her mouth still curled upside down. “How long is that?”
“Eight!” she cried, wiggling out of my hold. “Are you bonkers?”
“I absolutely am,” I said. “You’ll have to diagnose my problem when I get home.”
“Fine.” Her eyebrows were burrowed, and her smile was a pout, but as soon as I stood up and headed toward the door, all anger was lost. “Bye, daddy. Come home soon!” And she waved me off with her mother standing close by.
Before I’d get to my car, I’d always look at Mimi’s mother. Her mother, even with unruly hair and unbrushed teeth that early in the day, forever will be the love of my life. After everything, she still takes my breath away.
Sometimes I used to just lie in bed and think about how far I’ve come in my life, like buying a house and getting promoted, but especially Jamie and Mimi. Sometimes, I was even proud of myself.
Mimi wouldn’t be proud of me, not now.
She’s turning nine soon, on the twenty-third of February. Every day, I count down until the days I’ll soon be able to see her again. Jamie knows that it’s best for her to just wait for me to come back.
“What did you tell her?” I asked Jamie, my heart sinking into my stomach during the first days she visited me.
“I told her you’re visiting your brother in California.”
Even today when Jamie still comes to see me, I sometimes can’t help but bite my lower lip to keep myself together.
Wishing I could leave with her while despising my thoughtless decisions, I know I have to let Jamie go soon without me. Time is crunched, but I will forever appreciate her effort. “Please tell Mimi I’ll write soon.”
I watch Jamie’s face crumble, but there’s nothing I can do. I can’t hold my girl and tell her it’s going to be alright, that everything will work out in the end. I can’t hug Mimi again as she powerfully holds me, nearly pleading to come back soon from a long day.
“I will,” she says, trembling as she puts the phone back on its hook. I do the same and watch her emerge from the opposite side of the glass. With every wrinkle in her t-shirt, I think of home. I think of holding her tight in our small bed, breathing in her glorious scent because she was so close.
As she leaves, a tear suddenly escapes from my right eye. I once heard that if a tear first falls from your left eye, they’re tears of sadness; if it falls from the right, they’re tears of happiness. I don’t know who said that because it’s probably an old wives’ tale, but it’s definitely ironic. I try to stay optimistic so the days will go by faster.
Soon enough, I’ll show both Mimi and Jamie that I never really left.