Miranda wasn’t dying. She was standing in the grocery store, in a long line filled with other people who were being multilingual and filling her head with confusion. But she was most certainly not dying.
She often reminded herself of this fact. It was a necessary day-to-day assertion. “I’m not dying, I’m not dying,” she would tell herself when she rolled over in the morning to turn off the Mickey Mouse alarm clock on her bedside table, stolen from her son’s room when he went off to college because it was so annoying that it actually got her up. “I’m not dying,” she would recite over the coffee maker, dancing from one foot to another on cold toes.
“Put slippers on!” Miranda’s mother used to yell – really yell, with spittle flying out of her mouth and veins coming to the fore of her face.
“I’m not dying,” Miranda reminded herself on the way to work and in the morning meeting and the noon meeting and the late lunch meeting and the dinner meeting. “I’m not dying.”
“You’ll catch cold and then where will you be?” her mother would ask. Miranda yearned to ask where indeed that would be, but it was many years before she worked up the courage. By then, her mother wasn’t a force to be reckoned with anymore, and it felt like a cheap, below the belt blow. There were better ways to get to her mother than this, she knew, but it made her mother smile to hear her daughter ask the question. “Dead,” she’d said in the nursing home. “That’s what I meant when you were a kid. You’d be dead. Kids die of colds all the time.”
Miranda stood in the grocery store line and listened to the Spanish and Greek and Russian streaming around her and knew she would never learn another language. One was hard enough for her to contend with. It wouldn’t help her to understand the chatter around her. The mothers were all probably telling their kids the same thing every mother tells her daughter. The men in big jerseys were probably talking about some game involving a ball.
“I’m not dying,” Miranda told herself every night before she went to sleep. She walked barefoot to her bed and tucked her feet into the coldest part of the mysterious temperatures found in crisp sheets and made beds. “I’m not.”