I used to get sick all the time when I was a kid.
Nothing major, just your usual stuff. Little fevers, stomach aches, that kind of thing. But my momma couldn’t bear to see me so miserable. So, whenever I was sick, she would tell me my favorite story. This story.
Once upon a time there was a little glass princess. Her hands were glass, her feet were glass, the tip of her nose and the tips of her toes were all glass. She sparkled in the light when she danced. She was the most beautiful princess in the whole world.
But glass is fragile. It cracks and it breaks. So the little princess couldn’t live in the outside like the rest of the world. Instead, she lived in a snow globe, and spent her days twirling in the silvery flakes.
One day, she became curious about the world outside her glass chamber. She wanted to breathe the fresh air, to feel the grass under her cold feet. So she escaped her snow globe and went in search of great adventures.
But the little glass princess didn’t know about the dangers of the world. No sooner than she left her globe, she slipped and fell from a great height, shattering into pieces on the hardwood floor beneath.
And the little glass princess was no more.
I can’t explain why I liked that story so much. It’s a sad story, no doubt, but I was always fascinated by the glass princess. I liked to imagine her pirouetting in the snow, the light gleaming in shattered beams through her glass skin. How beautiful she must have looked.
My momma was not a terrible woman or a monster. She didn’t hurt me – there are no scars on my body, no mars to my flesh. She always held me as something precious to be treated with extreme delicacy and tenderness. It was her love for me.
Though that’s not what the doctors say.
But what can doctors know? Since I was brought here, they’ve done nothing. They only look at me with sadness and pity and all kinds of ugly emotions in their eyes. They don’t love me. Only momma loved me.
I still remember the day she didn’t come to see me. Momma had never done that before. I would have gone looking for her, but how could I? I don’t leave my room. Well, I didn’t, anyway, before this whole mess started. My room was my life, and it was a good life. It had no windows, but it was always bright. Momma had filled the room with lamps and lights of all different kinds. She liked the light, and I did, too. Of course, it always seemed brighter when she was in the room with me.
That first day she didn’t come, I was sad. The second day, I cried. The third day, there was a knock on my door. And the doctors came to take me away.
I miss momma.
The doctors want me to write about what it was like living with momma. What we liked to do together, our favorite foods, our favorite songs. They say that if I do a good job, they’ll let me see her. But I know that’s not true.
My time with momma was special. Some days she spent hours with me, some days we only had a few minutes together, but every moment was precious to us. She liked to sing to me, strange songs I didn’t understand about ghosts and love. They were good songs. She liked to brush my hair, too. I have long, blonde hair, and sometimes we would sit for hours as she brushed it, always gentle. Sometimes, though, momma would go to her Away Place and forget what she was doing. Once, she brushed out half my hair before she remembered to stop.
Sometimes, momma would get real sick. She’d get pale and tired and her belly would swell up, big and round. Once, I asked her what was wrong. She said there was a ghost in her stomach, wailing and clawing and trying to get out. I was scared, but she told me it was okay. She told me it would leave and then she’d be happy again.
She was right, of course. Momma was always right. One day, she’d come back and the swelling would be all gone. She’d be happy, then, and say that the ghost had run away. To celebrate, she’d make all my favorite foods. We’d have spaghetti and meatballs, and hamburgers, and lasagna. Momma was the best cook around.
I wonder if momma can still cook in Heaven.
They think I don’t hear them, but I do.
The night they brought me in, they told me momma would be coming to see me in a few days. But after they thought I was asleep, the nurses started whispering. They said things like, “smell” and “hanging” and “tongue” and “dead.”
Momma isn’t coming to see me.
Sometimes, I pretend to be asleep when the doctors come in. They say things like “sick” and “unstable” and “sad.”
Joke’s on them, because I already know I’m sick.
Before momma let them take me away, I started getting sick. Sometimes, I can’t stop from shaking. I get bad headaches and soreness all over my body. Sometimes, my arms are so stiff they’re hard to bend. It made momma sad and scared.
Maybe that’s why momma left.
Yesterday, the doctors asked about my brothers and sisters. I don’t have any, I said. They told me momma had other children, but they couldn’t find them. I told them they were wrong. I’m momma’s only little girl. That made them scared. They used the word “pregnant” a lot, but I don’t know what that means. Thinking of momma having other children made me jealous. Momma is mine.
I wish she’d come back for me.
I’m getting sicker. I wish momma were here to tell me my story. I asked the doctors to tell the story of the glass princess, but they said they don’t know it. Oh, well. They couldn’t tell it half as well as momma, anyway.
It’s hard to write this now, the way my hands shake. The doctors told me that I’m not getting better. They used the word “comfortable” a lot. They want me to be comfortable.
Last night, I heard them talking again. I stayed very still so they didn’t know I was awake, listening. They said, “flesh” and “eat” and “kuru.” I wonder what that means.
They say I’ll see momma soon. I think I will, too. Maybe then she can tell me the story.
I just want to be momma’s glass princess again.