Reason for Return


United States
39° 42' 21.8232" N, 74° 15' 11.3292" W

On December 14, 2012, Olivia Rose Engel, 6, left Sandy Hook Elementary school and joined the angels in Heaven.

Reason for Return
April 7th, 2013

Gripping my coat pockets,
I am fortifying my hardened shell,
or at least attempting to.

I cannot help but feel
as if my coats are still wet,
because these wounds are still fresh.
How long is the drying time for:
“Mom ready to move on”?

A blast of hot air melts me down
the automatic doors rip me apart
the chemically treated floors burn into my nostrils
and the harsh light blinds me back into frailty.

I make
my way to the line
and don’t look behind.
I wait
eight minutes and twenty two seconds
until I am faced with a sign

A woman with silver hair
stares at me
through thick, pink-rimmed glasses.
She empties the contents of my bag
and I fight off a memory of Olivia’s jacket
which was the same color.
Now she’s running over.
Tiny legs pushing snow.
And I tell myself, No!
Because Toys R Us doesn’t sell couches
for grieving mothers
to collapse on.

I hold dear to my pockets,
bracing for the three words
That fall out of her mouth,
and plummet down
onto the counter top like,
shell casings.

I pick them up,
and rearrange their letters;
forcing them to reject
their heavy significance.
I harness my scrabble skills
but all I manage to come up with is this:

Feet run faster,
fate refuse,
Torn, tears, afternoon.

Stone stare onset,
often reset,
uneaten oreos.

Ears. softer. Easter. rarest. soon.

She repeats the question again,
except more forceful this time
and the customers behind
me tap their feet to her words.

And I shout in her face:
“To pay my father back for the funeral!
And because I cannot keep her Christmas presents
in my closet anymore!
She isn’t here to catch butterflies
to keep inside this net,
nor will she be able to learn her cursive
and Brayden isn’t old enough for Leapster yet,
so why should I hold onto every piece of her
that I know I’ll never get?

You want a reason for return?
Well you’ll get mine,
when I get hers.”

And I politely tell her:
“You know, the darndest thing,
my mother-in-law just called today -
said she got them everything on their list.”
I squeeze my pockets tight,
and I watch her
as she takes


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