After my mother died, my father removed the batteries from every clock in our house, adjusted their hands at the time when my mother was born, when she married my father, when she gave birth to me, when she died.
My father claimed he dreamt of my mother every night: sometimes by the lake, her lilac sari lifted up to her knees, her feet burrowed in warm sand. Or in a party, walking up to him in her flowing, off-shoulder dress, bright lipstick and heavy European perfume he’d never approve of, asking for a slow dance. Or lying in a hammock outside our home, an over-sized hat over her face, Anna Karenina resting on her chest.
I shrugged a lot, I let him be. Kissed him on his forehead, said I was sorry, and switched off the lights of his room. And my father’s eyes were half-open, staring at the moon, little patch of white in a dark space.
My father slept more. When he woke up, he cried. I waited for him to stay awake for at least a few hours a day even though I knew he was less lonely in his dreams. But he stayed in bed, snoring, sobbing or talking to my mother―between not much and nothing.
“Mom never went to parties or had a hammock,” I told him one of the few times he was up and lucid.
“I know,” he said, “but she always wanted to.”
Now his first death anniversary dawns grey in the still house. I dig through the closets, bring out the sleeping clocks, push the batteries in. Watch their crawling hands. The creaking door opens to the bedroom where I can see my father rising from his bed where he died sleeping. I imagine my mother snug in her grave. The sound of tick tock fills the room. Something happening, something passing.
Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas and is an electrical engineer by profession. Her work has has been published or is forthcoming in Tin House Online, Slice, The Cincinnati Review, Yemassee, The Minnesota Review and others.
Artwork by: Kerrie O’Brien