More Than Words
(Page 4 of 4)
Every night Adrea takes an hour-long bath, using almost an entire bar of glycerin soap. The green and yellow bars become wild fish, flipping out of her hands to escape. Loitering in the hall outside the bathroom, pretending to give her privacy, I manage to be afraid even of this innocence.
Saint-Exupéry met the little prince in the Sahara when his plane had to make an emergency landing. He needed to fix his engine before his water supply ran out. After a few days he awoke to a child’s voice asking, “If you please, draw me a sheep.”
Adrea loves riddles. “The stars are beautiful because of a flower that cannot be seen.”
I’ve read her this line dozens of times, signed its incomprehensible phrasing to her over and over. Adrea also loves to sign this riddle. Her fingers flicking the stars, the wave over her face of BEAUTIFUL, her small hand growing a flower out of her other hand, and finally, the “cannot be seen.” It has some unknown meaning for her. Yet another thing I can’t understand about my own daughter.
I curled up in bed, my face to the window. I looked at my hands. They care for Adrea. They speak to Adrea. These hands have touched Megan. These same hands. Saint-Exupéry is tender toward the little prince because of his fragility and because he is loyal to a flower. I didn’t want to feel that way about Adrea, loving her for her vulnerability or her loyalty. And in reality she is tough and durable. She is not returning to some small planet. We live together on the same island.
I felt Adrea climb up on the bed behind me, her silent warmth against my back. I turned over. Her face was flushed. I petted her forehead. “Hot puppy girl,” I signed, “I think you have a fever.”
She yawned in my face, staring at the book cover, her pupils dilated. She pressed against my shoulder, closing her eyes. I smoothed back her hair, imagining her time spent at the hospital while they found a foster placement for her at Mrs. Carter’s. When I shifted in bed, she opened her eyes again heavily.
I got up and signed, “I’m going to squeeze some fresh orange juice.”
She stood up on the bed, wanting to be held. Carrying her down the hall, I stopped in the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet, and signed THERMOMETER. She took it off the glass shelf. I shifted her to my back and trotted down the hall to the kitchen. Bringing down a fever I could do.