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36

I wrote my mother a letter. I said I loved her, and I thanked her for coming to see me in the hospital. I said I would never forget that she did that. She wrote back to me on a card that showed the Chrysler Building at night. Where she got that card in Amgash, Illinois, I cannot imagine, but she sent it to me and said I will never forget either. She signed it M. I put the card on my table near the telephone by my bed and looked at it often. I would pick it up and hold it, looking at her handwriting, no longer familiar to me. I still have the card with the Chrysler Building at night that she sent to me.

When I was able to leave the hospital, my shoes did not fit. I had not thought that losing weight meant losing it everywhere, but it did of course and my shoes were too big on my feet. I packed the card in the bottom of the plastic bag they gave me to put my things in. My husband and I took a taxi home, and I remember that outside the hospital the world seemed very bright frighteningly bright and I did feel frightened by that. My children wanted to sleep with me on my first night home, and William said no, but they lay on the bed with me, my two girls. Dear God, I was happy to see my children, they had grown so. Becka had a terrible haircut; she had got gum in her hair, and the family friend who had no children of her own, who had brought them to me in the hospital, had cut her hair for her.

Jeremy.

I didnt know he was gay. I didnt know he was sick. No, said my husband, he never looked sick the way so many do. And now he was gone he had died while I was away. I wept steadily, a quiet weeping. On the front stoop I sat while Becka patted my head, Chrissie sometimes sat down next to me, putting her small arms around me, before the girls danced up and down the stairs again. Molla came by and said, Oh dear, youve heard about Jeremy. She said it was very bad, a terrible thing to happen to men. And women, she added. She sat with me while I wept.

I have thought so oftenso oftenabout the man in the hospital with the yellow sticker on the door the day my mother left and I was parked in the hallway outside his room. How he looked at me with the dark of his burning eyes, begging, and with despair. Not letting me look away. It could have been Jeremy. Many times I have thought: I will look it up, it must be in the public records, the day he died and where he died. But I have never looked it up.

It was summer when I came home, and I wore sleeveless dresses, and I didnt realize I was so skinny. But I saw people look at me with fear when I went down the street to get food for the children. I was furious that they looked at me with fear. It was not unlike how children on our school bus would look at me if they thought I might sit next to them.

The gaunt and bony men continued to walk by.


| My Name Is Lucy Barton | c