Making a Fist
By Naomi Shihab Nye
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
Saturday after breakfast with Deborah we drove through Illinois into Missouri, where we had lunch in Jefferson Park and went to see the Arch, though we didn't wait the more-than-an-hour to ride the elevator to the top. It was a gorgeous day, mid-70s, the Mississippi was beautiful, and we really enjoyed the museum of the history of the West beneath the arch.
From there we drove to Springfield, where Paul's cousin Todd lives with his wife and three kids (two boys and a girl, 12, 7 and 6). They have a big backyard and basement playroom and the kids hit it off immediately by pulling out their Yu-Gi-Oh cards. We had a barbecue and then drove into Ozark, where Todd is the GM of the Ozark Mountain Ducks. The team was away so we got a complete tour of the stadium and the kids got to play on an actual minor league field. They played half the night and we finally threw them all into bed.
I did have a moment of misery when my dermatologist called me on a Saturday evening with the results of my biopsy from last week -- which was abnormal but not malignant. Which means more surgery when I get back to make sure they got everything, but hopefully nothing more drastic. We were driving through the mountains when he tried to call and had no reception, so he left a message on my voicemail, and by the time I got it he had left the office. I called his emergency cell number which he sounded none too pleased about and he didn't remember my results at first but he said that if it had been melanoma he would have remembered. So I have to call him back Tuesday, as we'll be in campgrounds tomorrow and Monday. Just the kind of stress I do not want on vacation.