• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 09
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My baby’s first coos. How to capture the sounds that link your body and mine? I take a photo. Your open eyes stare at me, your lips part, and your tongue raises a bridge behind your gums. But the sounds that you are making—those gurgling bubbles of music that tell me of your pleasure, that you have found your toes, that you are mesmerized by my face, that your skin loves the soft folds of your blanket—where are they? I write your weight and height in the baby book that someone has given me when you were that stranger who abided inside me. I fix the photo and record, like a scientist, the momentous achievements of you holding your head up straight, of that first smile that wasn’t the result of an undigested bit of cracker. I sing nursery rhymes and nonsense and touch each finger, kiss your nose, rub a finger around the soft fold of an ear. Tracing the outlines of this body that will never be this way again.

I slip the cassette into the tape recorder and press the red button. Coo for me again, sweets, I croon and sing. The tape rolls from spindle to spindle, a narrow filament to mock time and to bring you back to me later. Later, when you climb the jungle gym and pretend to be a monkey. Later, when you play the violin in the eighth grade orchestra. Later, when you argue and storm out of the house without the car keys. Later, when you stand, smiling, between your grandparents, on the High School football field, diploma in hand, mortarboard cocked to one side. Later, when you hold your own child in your arms for the digital camera. As my memory, once green like the patchwork fields in early summer, dries and crumbles. As the folder of school projects—essays and drawings—mildews and warps. As even the spindle on the cassette—that once promised to preserve you always in that instant for eternity—grinds to a halt. The tape snags. It stretches, distorts. The film breaks or tangles in the gears. As these tethers to the past—these tricks of memory—wither and fail, I pick up the cellphone and call you, waiting to hear your voice again.