I prefer to eat alone, but on a dim and backlit Thursday evening, I call my sister and ask her to witness me chew my own grief. She’s surprised but says yes, she’ll wiggle the woe-bone from my throat, tell me if I have gristled sadness between my teeth.
After I told my therapist about our mother and the clowns, she said Oh, that’s a lot. Let’s digest this together next week. But before she could ease me out of her office, I snagged her in a line of questions:
Who will do the actual chewing? Does milk neutralize anger? Can resentment be tenderized? Will you unhusk my grief, feed it back to me like a baby bird?
My sister is quiet as I drag my grief morsels into the living room and start to soak the corners of my childhood diary with spit. She’s quiet while I gnaw at the forehead of a porcelain mask, when my cheeks are full of ribbons, when teddy bear fur fluffs out of my mouth. She doesn’t intervene in the process—she trusts my teeth, she trusts me to know how much I can swallow, trusts me when I motion for more.
But when I finally pause, not even a third of the way through, teary snot mingling with the rabbit foot dangling from my lips, my sister rubs my back in little circles, offers me a smile, says
take all the time you need
Alice Agro-Paulson is a Brooklyn-based developmental editor, storyteller, and poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HAD, Spark to Flame,Voicemail Poems, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. Alice has been supported by Roots. Wounds. Words. and Tin House while working on her hybrid speculative memoir. She can be found on IG: @alliagroedits