by Avital Gad-Cykman

A song about a golden morning played in her head. That unexpected bit of cheer brought her out of bed and to the kitchen, where, for the first time, she had a cup of chocolate milk with her father dead.

Yesterday, the grief had caught her in her chest and overflowed her body, filling, then breaking her. She screamed, unprepared.

And yet, as the next morning broke loose she was up. She needed forgiveness for the song. She heard the music evolving inside her, playing her organs, and she listened as if the radio played it. She would have to put her heart aside to play in her head and listen like any audience, to be able to go on.

All it took her to learn to walk again was the first day of her father’s death. She would count those days like birthdays. For the dead, her father was a baby, only one day dead. Almost alive.

The blues played inside her, a scratched vinyl record that repeated bitter-sweet chords. It was never Mozart or Beethoven, no, Mozart and Beethoven had been her father’s, and Father had taken his classical music wherever he had gone.

Sometimes, a passing scent of warm masculine skin or a dad’s kiss to his daughter broke her, and she screamed in her dreams, and hoped the daylight could glue her pieces together.

One morning, the air smelled of the dry southern wind and the nearing summer vacation. Her mother raised her tired eyes, the radio beside her still quiet. She had struggled to save Father and lost, and the radio had been silent since that day.

The blues took over the house, disregarding the pop and rock records the girl played too high to be able to hear anything else.

“Turn it off!” Her mother pleaded.

“Fine,” the girl said. The door closed behind her. She blinked at the sun, but didn’t go back. She hoped that Mother wasn’t crying inside for her long-beloved Beethoven and Mozart.

The skin on the girl’s forearm felt unfamiliar and fresh when she crossed her arms. It was summer. She was wearing a short-sleeved shirt for the first time that year. She started running, wildly flailing her arms in the air, and for a brief moment, joy swept away the shards in her chest.

She stopped to breathe. The neighbor’s parrot shouted disconnected words with a nasal voice, surprising in a creature without a nose. The woman from the first floor yelled for her son to come home, and he didn’t reply. At the top floor, a dark-skinned mother and her two teenage daughters leaned over the balcony, not to miss a detail of what was going on. Business was as usual.

She entered her home and closed the shutters, then, sitting close to her mother, she listened to the silent radio as if it had been playing all along.