Wednesday found me once more on my way to prayer meeting. As usual, Zuri asked me how my day in school had been, what interesting new books I was reading, and how my cousin’s health was. We lapsed into silence after that, because it was obvious that I did not want to talk, and Zuri was one of those rare adults who didn’t take that personally. She left me alone with my thoughts and  cheerfully navigated the horrible inner-city traffic while blasting the classical music in her car.

I remember that day we were listening to Liszt. What had she told me about him? Oh, yes, he was the rock star of his day. Women swooned when he performed. He had groupies, too. I was rather indifferent to him.

“I love this part” she said to herself—or to me—and while I didn’t say anything, I fixed my eyes on her hands. She had a curious habit of slightly tapping her fingers while she drove as if trying to play the piano on the steering wheel. There they went to the rhythm of Hungarian Rhapsody. She had beautiful hands. Slender, with tapered fingers, and pink nails. A pianist’s hands. A healer’s hands. Surely they would be incapable of harming others….

I struggled to tear my eyes from them, “Zuri, I have a question.”

“Sure, what is it?” She said, and turned down the volume

“Remember Monday, you gave me something for my stomach?”

“Of course!” she smiled wryly at me, “Who could forget that?”

“Well…what was that thing you gave me? Those bitter leaves?”

“Oh, you mean the absinthe wormwood?”

“Yeah!… I mean, does it have side-effects?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like…” I began to feel really stupid, and there was no way to ask the question without divulging things “I don’t even know. Never mind.”

“No. Tell me.”

I struggled to put my query into words, “Well. I had a very strange dream that night. A very strange dream.”

“A nightmare?”

I thought about it. No. It had not been a nightmare. I had woken up in tears, but I’d not had a nightmare.

“It was strange dream, and it felt very real…it wouldn’t happen to have been because of the…the”

“The wormwood? No. I’ve never heard that type of side effects”

“Oh.” I felt disappointed.

“What did you dream?”

I did not answer immediately. I waited until we exited the freeway, drove up the avenue that led to the church, and parked. I waited for Zuri to turn off the ignition, and only then did I dare speak the unspeakable.

“Grandma. I dreamt of Grandma. I don’t remember the details, only the feeling that we were together again.” I took a deep breath, feeling like I wanted to cry, or be sick, or both. But I composed myself when I remembered her hands. Healer’s hands that were now blurry through my vision.

“Zuri, can you tell me if I’m gonna die?”

– – –

part 16 of If You Only Knew

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