Plus Sign

They told me they were getting divorced. Choose which one of us you want to live with. If they'd asked a year before, I would have cried and pushed their fingers together, a warm, woven basket. Maybe then they would have stayed with me.

But I was seven, the age of reason. I brought my fist down on the kitchen table like a gavel. I'll live with Grandma. Their faces closed up. I went to my room without being told, tugging Grandma's zigzag afghan off the couch, dragging it behind me like Linus's blanket from "Peanuts."

I lay on top of my bed, kicking my sneakers onto my Snoopy rug. Smack on the doghouse, but he kept dancing. I didn't turn on the babyish lamp with cutouts of moons and stars. Pulling Grandma's afghan around me like a cocoon, I waited for them to come and kiss me goodnight — but then I forgot I was waiting for anything.

When I woke, dawn was falling like steel bars through thin plastic blinds. I put on my robe and eased my feet into worn felt slippers waiting on the gray carpet. I switched off the reading lamp — on all night, illuminating the wrinkles in the paperback spine of The Shining.

In the kitchen, I poured myself a bowl of Cheerios. Only when there were two pieces left, floating in the milk like life preservers, did I think to look for my parents. There was nothing in their room but a bed stripped to the mattress. I remade it with sheets that smelled of bleach. Her initials, LOS, embroidered in faded red thread on the pillowcases. Lying down, I drew Grandma's afghan over me, my hands playing over frayed slips in the wool, tracing her initials and his, over and over.

I'm still there, although steel bars have grown around the bed. My hands are too numb to feel the pattern in Grandma's afghan. I don't know what day it is. It feels like Sunday. I don't know anything except those initials, and the plus sign I always put between them.

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