Carlos comes over for his weekly visit. He is a big booming trunk of a man. When he walks through the house, he is so much noise: jangling of keys, denim rubbing against thick thighs, heavy boots on the wooden floor. I’m accustomed to the silence in the house now but there is a room that is still too quiet. Carlos pauses when he walks by there, listening. He swore he heard their laughter there once and begged me to let him open the windows.
He doesn't say anything when he walks in now. He comes to stand before me, hooks me up by my armpits. He doesn't talk about how small I am, how bird thin my arms are now. Carlos doesn't kiss me anymore. What we do isn't making love. We try to love each other the way we used to back then, but both know that love should be more than just filling up the empty spaces. Instead, we settle, like cracks in the foundation of a very old home.
When he is done, I watch him get dressed, his shadow looming by the doorway. He walks out, quietly shutting the door behind him. His motorcycle revs up and he is gone again.
When Carlos first began visiting again, when he was inside of me, I would cry. He allowed it at first. Then one day he pinched my face between his thick fingers. It was the most violent thing he had ever done. That day, Carlos said, “You owe me this much.”
He's right. I owe him much more.
Miranda would be five.
Matthew would be seven.
The hollow spaces in the years make too much noise, static noise, like an old television blaring, that always takes me back to That Day. It was so loud in the house That Day. That Day. It will forever be That Day…
I just wanted to breathe, to think clearly without all of the “Mama, mama, mama”s, without the small hands grasping at me, small voices wanting things, everything, all of me. I went into the now too quiet room and locked myself in the closet, just for a moment’s peace.
I can only say it was an accident for so long. I can only say that I forgot to put the latch back on the window. I didn’t even know they knew how to open the window. I can only come up with excuses for so long. Because after so long, no one is listening anymore. No one cares. I am not a person anymore. I am not a mother anymore.
I am just the reason why my children are dead.
The thoughts come too clearly now. I think of crying, loud creaking footsteps, screams, crushed bodies below on the ground, banshee sirens in the distance, multiple monitors beeping, small blue faces not breathing, white caskets.
I threw away all the pictures. I burned the toys. Carlos moved out, said that it was too quiet, that I had banished their spirits from the house. And then, late that night, I don’t know why, but I passed by the too quiet room and I heard it, too: their laughter. It drowned out everything else, all the pain, the guilt, the static noise of despair. It pulled me into the room where if I stayed for another second, I would have never left. I would have let their laughter swallow me whole.
I haven’t heard them since then, but I keep the windows open now, always.
Carlos comes to visit every week and says he’d like to try for another, as if that will make up for the two that are gone. I let him do what he wants. I settle into the cracks of our foundation and try to love him the way I once used to. I owe him that…I owe him much more.