If You Ask

by | Dec 7, 2021 | Fiction, Issue Twenty Four

It’s just a small cloth bag with a zipper that no longer zips. Teal, gray-blue, blue-green—even cranberry—small chevrons in white. A navy rhombus holds a smaller red rhombus, clean lines, sharp angles in space.

You know it’s Guatemalan because you checked the tag, a small white label inside, and the texture, coarse, a tight cotton weave. It’s sturdy and lovely, like the woman, you imagine, who made it, hands rough from hard work and sun. Her eyes lined at their sides, wrinkles reach out like moon rays, hair long, and pulled back from her face. You laugh—a bit unkindly—at your lazy imagination, so eager to place people in an easy, happy box.

This bag, this coarse-textured bag full of color. Were it somebody else’s, it might hold make-up, or hair clips, tampons or soap, or spools, thimbles, needles and thread.  But your bag holds your Hanson-Roberts tarot deck. You ask it questions, your fears, your concerns, your funny feelings like something’s gone wrong.

 One morning, you pull the Tower—lightning bolts cry tear-shaped flames, while people fall head-first from the sky. That night, you come home to find your daughter, 17, her body strewn out across her bed. But her head. Her head hangs heavy over one side, hair, wild. Auburn ripples strain toward the floor. They almost make it.

One bag, a bag with clean lines, that may or may not have been made by a woman with rough hands. You thank her or the underage, assembly-line child—whom you ache for, when you think of her, but rarely do you think of her, and that’s quite another problem, how rarely we think of others, and when we do, we feel helpless, do nothing, move on. You thank the woman or the child or the weaving machine that has brought you this precious container.

 It holds all you need to know if only you ask. But there’s too much to ask, about children in factories and women whose hands are rough from hard work and sun. Too much to ask about daughters, their eyes open, rolled up, to the right. Daughters with needles in their arms. And through all this, all of this, the sun still wakes in the morning. Rests its big, round self at night. And your bag, your small, precious bag, still needs a new zipper.

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