One of those famed southern California afternoons, a sunny Wednesday mid-March. We met you on Clock Street with its dappled shade and ranch-style homes.
Your bruises were still swelling. You wore two sweaters; the weather was warm. Silently you fell into our arms; hot tears against your icy body. You shook while standing. Shades of purple lined your eyes.
We emerged from the shadows of poplars and palms and headed into the orange grove on the edge of campus. Sun fell onto our chests and shoulders. Still your hands were clammy.
The three of us sat down. You said you wanted to forget. We told you it was not possible. You said you didn’t want anything drastic to happen. We told you it already had. You did not stop shaking.
We looked out into the distance. The smog of LA hung low, graying a blue sky. The sweet smell of orange blossoms thickened. You said you did not think you could do it. We said nothing and each of us reached for one of your hands.
Hands that crafted papier-mâché pterodactyls and collages and home-made pizza, hands that turned pages of fine literature and slipped notes under doors; hands deft and capable until that moment framed in polluted air and swollen bruises. Child’s hands.
Sitting one of us on each side, we rubbed your palms, traced their lines which can tell the future. We pressed with corresponding digits your thumb, forefinger, middle, ring, pinky. Unique blueprint to unique blueprint, the three of us sat under a sky which gave no answers and made no sound. Closing our eyes, we dug down into our own reserves to warm your fingertips. We drew upon the words of women we had never met and the strength of ancestors. We dragged strength up through our spines and cascaded it over our shoulders, pitched it down the slopes of our arms, poured it into every cell of the hand that held yours.
Us three knew only two things: one, that what you chose now would determine whether you lived or died and two, that this was not and could not be love.
Three women breathing. Three powers convening to make a fire. Three warriors fighting to bring you back.
The sun shone for a long time before we stood up and started walking again, fingers interlaced.