After a boring dinner with the relatives, Granma relaxed on one end of the couch—drink in hand. People migrated to her as the party played out around her. They checked in with news about their kids, their travels, or what sucks about life. When they were finally done, I held the cold-cut tray out to her. She nodded, bright-eyed, speared some rolled up roast beef with a plastic sword, and moved it to her own paper plate. She patted the couch to her left. I set down the tray and slid in next to her.
If my friends saw Granma in a grocery store, they wouldn’t give her a second glance. T-shirt, blue jeans, and white hair that was either tied back in a ponytail or dangled down her back like a string mop, like she hadn’t been to a hair salon in twenty years.
“So what’s happening in your life, Weslyn?”
Her kind expression inspired me to burble on about some guy who tricked me into falling for him by kissing me backstage when no one was around, then pretended it never happened. I jabbered about how his real girlfriend hated me because I hadn’t known she was his girlfriend… blah, blah, blah. My eyes met Granma’s when I was done. I cringed when I imagined how I looked to her with my twisted mouth and my unforgiving eyes. Complaining. I’d never heard her complain about anything.
Granma let my words hang in the air for a moment. She gazed a bit up and to my right like she was reading an invisible teleprompter. “Well, that sounds like a total waste of time.”
My brain blooped. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
“This roast beef is very tender, have you tried it?” She picked up the silver tray and offered me some.
We sat side by side in silence, eating the pink rolls of meat off those swords. Granma lengthened her arms above her head, like a cat stretch, and brought one down around me. My body synchronized with her slow and easy breaths.
At first everything was the same. Our living room with its mismatched Ikea and yard sale stuff. A few aunts and cousins. In the next moment, there was a shift, and it was like I peered out through Granma’s eyes. The chitter chatter faded and the naked colors of the scene intensified. Red Christmas stockings, the glint of a glass-topped redwood burl table, a wicker lampshade, four maple chairs, the black-and-white chenille curtains, emerald pillar candles, a burnished bronze-colored screen that shielded the fireplace—they were the same as always, but how I saw them was different. It was like I’d appeared in a royal palace and was looking around for the first time. Each object vivid and clear, and it had its own presence. I had no opinions, no worry about what would happen, and no sadness about what had happened. A smile showed itself on my face, without me putting it there, like I’d set down a heavy backpack I’d been hauling my whole life. For a moment, anyway.
“What was that!” I said.
Granma cocked her head, “What was what, sweetie?”
“Did you feel what just happened?”
She smiled. One palm thump-thumped on my knee, and the other hand pointed to a distant cousin across the room. “I think Shirley needs some roast beef.”
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