I look up at her from my veggie quesadilla plate, my eyes suggesting an answer to the question in my expression, but her face shows no comprehension. She wears sunglasses inside the restaurant.
I pass the salt.
Two shakes and she sets the shaker aside to pick at fake cheese melted over corn tortilla chips. Biting the triangle tip of a chip, she glances up–I think–at me, my head recently returned to face her after scooping up random bits of salsa to topple over one of the soft triangles targeted to dissect and devour.
“When do you think you’ll know? I mean going back.” I ask but already know the answer. How can she know?
“I don’t know. You’re asking me something I can’t possibly know. I mean I could recover next week or continue on like this forever or get hit by a bus as soon as we walk out this door.” She waves to some indeterminate place beyond the restaurant walls.
I know what she means. The asking leaps over logic into faith like a ghost limb needing to be scratched. Nothing there but habit and the act of speaking.
The gap of knowing and being spans eons now. We both know it, and yet we dance this ancient witless dance of caretaker and charge. It’s my job to ask the unanswerable questions and hers to stem the flow of fear with uncertainly, freeing and terrifying, reminding us both to surrender and enjoy lunch.
“Can we have a peaceful family Christmas dinner and forget for a few moments? Will we?” I ask uncertain of her answer, the truth of her answer. I fight the terrible urge to cough.
“Before the bus hits? Sure. Might as well.” She laughs, picking up the salt to shake it once more.
Merry, Merry, Merry to one and all!