Her world begins in fuzzy gray. This is what she remembers—a soft shadowy towel drying her face, as she screams into fibers the shade of matted sheep or eggshell sky above a sea like concrete. Or not. Given how fresh out of the womb she was, it’s doubtful she was experiencing any true memory formation. Instead, with her years of looking at ultrasounds, little masses of curled gray matter, the images perhaps have congealed in her hippocampus, so that she applies the color to her own young self. It’s what beginnings and endings are made of. In the pre-morning light, she moves slowly, not sleepy but glad to take the time to watch her liver-spotted hands prepare a small breakfast of bread and fruit. She is feeling her feet on the floorboards, and the stray heat of the toaster as it wakes, and the warming breeze from the window she did not close last night. It is summer, the second one she has not worked since more than fifty years ago (the other a brief scare where a little off-white lump was taken out of her husband and they went on a big vacation because who knows what other lumps lurk in murky futures) and she would like to save money on air conditioning. Dust lies at the vents of her air ducts—just a few weeks longer before she starts going lightheaded, vision blurring in the swelter as she sweats, and she’ll finally give in, flick a switch, and sneeze until it’s cool enough to move properly again. Her daughters and their daughters and their husbands and wives and third cousins twice removed (or are they first cousins thrice disowned?)—they’d laughed at her when she told them her AC philosophy, or grumbled as their skin turned sticky in the heat. Even the night, as the afterbirth of fireworks trailed across the sky, had been particularly humid. The little creaks in the floorboards had come to life again as the family tossed itself reluctantly to sleep. She slices strawberries into quarters with a knife she should probably sharpen, knowing more than hearing that her husband is awake. He yawns again as he walks out to the kitchen. “What are you standing around in the dark for?” he grumbles. A loose hair loiters on the back of her shirt. He picks it off and squeezes the filament between his thumb and index finger, unable to discern how much of it is still its original black before he drops it. She stops cutting, embryonic disappointment sparking as she stares at the last moldy strawberry, her fingers sinking into its bruises. With a grimace, she tosses the extra fuzzy fruit into the compost. “Good morning,” she retorts. She reaches toward the window, twisting the thin plastic rod at the side. Through the open blinds, the light throws them both in gold and shadows.
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