My finger traces circles around the rim of the wine glass. Around and around. Catching on a slight dip—a barely-there imperfection—on the inside of the lip. It isn’t a chip. Not a result of over use or lack of care, just a slightly wrong move by the glass’s creator. My mother and I bought these wine glasses at the Blenko Glass Company in West Virginia. We used to stop there every year on our way to the beach, family vacation for Mom, Brian and me. We’d take the short detour and stand for hours, watching the workers craft glasses and vases and hurricanes and even tiny Hershey-Kiss-shaped glass drops. I used to want to be a glass blower, creating masterpieces from liquid and fire. It looked like magic.
My mom always told me I’d make a fine glass blower. She said I could make beautiful magic art.
Around and around.
The half-empty wine bottle sits just within arm’s reach. The dryer is humming in the background, Elliott shouts at me from bed to check the locks on the doors. My hair falls in wet tangles down my back. My throat grows tighter with each breath.
Around and around.
I’m not using the correct wine glass for a Burgundy. I’m not even sure this is a red wine glass. It tastes the same either way. I sign my name next to the neon orange flag, then turn to the next page and sign again. I remember my mother doing this for her mother. Only when my mother did it, she had a pair of kids and three decades more life experience. Top off the glass, turn the page, sign again.
Around and around.
An executor of her will. In charge of her medical decisions should she not be able to make them for herself. I set the wine bottle down on a proof copy of my wedding invitation, leaving a wet red ring on the paper. Wedding. Cancer. Words are just words in another person’s life until they’re bottles of wine and legal documents in your own. Endometrial. Uterine. Stage 4. Surgery. Radiation. Chemotherapy. Words and signatures and what if’s and next steps and ‘will I have to wear a wig at your wedding, Blair? Will you go shopping for one with me if my hair begins to fall out?’
Yes, Elliott, buy hamburger meat, we can make spaghetti sauce. No, Brian, don’t come home, there’s just a week until your college graduation, and we’re fine here.
The dryer hums, Elliott snores, the phone rings. I listen to Brian’s rage from the eye of my own storm. His ‘Why her?’ seems beside the point, and I say so. I can feel how much he loves her and in this quiet moment on this late night I think maybe if he can just hold on to her like this, he’ll keep her from falling off the earth. And maybe he will.
The bottle of wine is empty, Brian has cried himself to sleep and I can hear his ragged breaths on the other end of the line. And a brother and sister who never lie to each other now have the Mt. Everest of lies towering between them: “Everything will be fine, I promise. We have nothing to be scared of,” I said to him. “No. I’m not worried. Yes, I promise.”
Around and around. An empty glass now.
My head aches and my throat burns, but I don’t cry. Not a single tear. I can feel them, they’re built up behind my eyes and pushed up against my chest. My fear is under my skin, between my toes, in my hair. It’s there when I go to sleep. It’s waiting for me when I wake up. It’s only absent in between because I’m too numb in the latest hours of the night—too exhausted from fighting exhaustion.
And it’s only now, in these moments at the bottom of the wine bottle, in the seconds just before sleep takes over that I give into my most selfish thoughts: Let it be anyone but her. Not the single pure creature in this world. The only person who has never once let me down, who has never made a single decision without me in mind, who I call for everything always. Let us argue over colors and flower arrangements and tattoos and morals. Let me fight it for years only to become just like her. Let me wish it on someone else. I’ll pay for that sin later. Yes, I promise.
Around and around, catching my finger on that dip at every pass. A slightly wrong move by the glass’s creator. My mom always told me I’d make a fine glass blower.