Out of Habit

January 27, 2008
By Margaret Haragan, Louisville, KY

i chew my bottom lip-
it’s a nervous habit I picked up.
the gummy feel of the lip is one
of the most relaxing feelings.
and if you turn on Bach’s Requiem
i will have found my peace.
but no, I’m pacing the sticky tar
pavement outside the hospital. The
warm August winds whip my hair
around, strands slap my cheeks. I won’t
pull it back though- then people will be
able to see too much. My sad eyes
can be hidden in this matted long mess.
as can my large ears- the
ones that must be afraid of my head
because they are at least an inch
away. Back in middle school people asked
if I worked in Santa’s workshop, people
called me Dumbo.
my mom has sticky-outty wars, she
passed them down to me. And it’s because
of her that I walk the open road with
eye that want to well with tears.
up in a 10 story cement building that
smells of rubbing alcohol
lays her small, bony frame in a metal bed.
shivering in a small gown but smothered in
scratchy blankets, she is strapped to the heart
monitors, IV dripping at a constant pace. Her
shallow breathing is drowned by the sounds
of busy feet shuffling from room to room,
the wails of families who lost a member,
the grating wheels of beds being taken to
the surgery room.
i can’t handle holding her shaky, arthritic
hand. I can’t look at her in that
state. So I pace outside and pray to God
that she’ll get better. Gnawing on my lip
i think maybe, just maybe she’ll get
released, she can come home and I’ll
make her some Ravioli for dinner.
i look toward the automatic sliding
doors and taste blood. I bit my
lip too hard, the wind stops blowing.
i pull my hair back to expose
the large masses on the side of my head
and walk in the building.

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