Gift’s mother left when he was only five years old. One day she was everywhere in their house, her perfume filling even the crevices where his marbles rolled. And the next she was gone. According to his father, she left no explanation. But, Gift found a note tucked under his pillow.
He did not share this with his father, and he didn’t ask what “gone to find myself” meant. He imagined his mother with a large map, with an X drawn in bright red, looking in a forest for herself. He could see her with a large crew of people, all pointing this way and that way with their compasses saying “I think I see her up there.”
Gift missed his mother’s smell—jasmine and fresh cut grass. She always lingered in a room long after she was there. He found a bottle of her perfume in the garbage and snuck it into his room. He hid the bottle under his nightstand behind his comic books.
Every evening he sprayed just one mist of her onto his pillow. He pretended to hear each night. “Dear. Go to bed. Make sure to brush your teeth.”
Since she had gone he had stopped brushing his teeth altogether. They developed a thick film that tasted horrible and smelled even worse. Every time he opened his mouth he would promise himself that he would brush his teeth. But, then the memory of her would outweigh his instinct. So, instead he also stopped opening his mouth. Not talking was easier than he thought it would be. It turned out his father didn’t feel much like talking either. He’d open a can of soup, a carton of ice cream, or cereal and place his son’s serving in front of him. “Eat,” he’d say and Gift would do as he was told. As long as he ate his father would leave him alone.