I keep praying for you to return to me.
I want to share an image but it’s sad so bear with me.
I am 8 or 9, at home in a large house in the California suburbs, in a gated community my parents were so proud of affording, despite bankrupting themselves emotionally and financially to keep us here. I am with my sister and it is night. Let’s say 9 or 10pm. I’m at the living room window, a large glass pane that looks directly out to the street. There are no streetlights and we share no infrastructural contact with our most proximate neighbors. In other words we are very isolated. I look out the window in the dark while a TV plays in the background, waiting for my parents to get home. My sister is asleep. I am awake, waiting for my parents. I am alert and jolt forward each time headlights beam past the house. I feel my body shaking with fear.
As I wait for my parents I start to panic. Where are they? Why aren’t they home yet? What if they’re dead.
I go through this cycle of panic multiple times a night, and relieve myself with prayer in my own made up verse, invoking magic. I train my body to relax in a specific way so my entire prayer is heard through all of me. I wrestle with the message but start bargaining with God. I will be so good if you make sure they come home. This turns into resentment. I would never make anyone stay up at night waiting for me like this. Never.
When they finally return—late, very late, always very late—I experience pure ecstasy. There is nothing like the feeling requited prayer. I redouble my faith in the power of the universe. I must also come through on my side of the bargain, to be so good, so good.
My parents were husks of humanity after the death of my sister, which is almost certainly why they spent little to no time with us in the interregnum between raising three little girls, and two young adults. We, none of us, had the means, language, or time to understand grief. Instead, we prayed for each other in isolation and hoped beyond all measure that we would have the chance to prove our love through behavior as soon as we were ready to be together again.
I keep praying in my own language, that you return to me.