Each section is based on the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day from August, 2022.
I. dining room, n.
Long, rectangular table. Six chairs, all taken but one— yours.
II. administrivia, n.
I know you know what you’re doing, and you know I know you’re capable of caring of yourself, but you also know I worry.
III. hanbok, n.
I remember when they announced your name— you walked across the stage, they gave you a case for your diploma, you shook your principal’s hand. I was so proud of you.
IV. railipotent, adj.
So, why don’t you talk to me anymore? Was I so bad to you? Raising you the way I did? You’re grown up at college now and don’t need your mother?
V. belukar, n.
I guess— I just thought— I know we didn’t talk much for a while, but after moving out, maybe you’d reach out more.
VI. clear-cut, n.
There was something in your eyes when we said goodbye to you after helping you move into your dorm. I hoped I was imagining it, but the truth lies in your silence.
VII. pinguinitescent, adj.
Do you remember the soccer season banquet when you were seven? You ate too much pizza, deciding you were old enough to fill your own plate at the buffet. The picture of you, your pizza-covered face, your coach and trophy, hangs in the living room by the window.
VIII. poddle, v.
On Sundays, we all walk to the park by the lake, with a gap where you used to be.
IX. chiptune, n.
We used to play the Legend of Zelda — well, you’d play it, I’d listen to you tell me about it — after you finished your homework. We were so much closer then.
X. dogfood, v.
I’ve tried reaching out to you several times, but deleted the message each time. Practicing each sentence with possible tones you may put on them. There are too many variables, and I don’t want to be a burden.
XI. reginal, adj.
I work all day, care for your siblings. I’ve always done my best. I deserve more respect than this.
XII. muso, n.
I drink my morning coffee across the living room from your piano. I miss the songs you’d play as I got home from work, your smile.
XIII. chipperness, n.
I put on a smile when Janet sees me examining coffee creamer at Safeway. She asks how you’re doing at Western. I tell her some vague stories, based on movies I’ve seen, and how proud I am of you, based on reality.
XIV. abacist, n.
Maybe you’re just busy with your classes, new friends. Maybe you need to stand on your own and don’t want your mom holding you down. Maybe I didn’t react the right way when you came out to me.
XV. maleficate, v.
You used to come to me for advice, until you started hanging out with that boy. All of a sudden, I was always wrong and you started building a wall between us.
XVI. fáinne, n.
I just don’t get it. I donated to that Trevor Project you always post about. I got one of those rainbow borders for my profile picture. I don’t know what else you want.
XVII. simpulum, n.
I lit a candle for you under the stained-glass window at church so that God could hear me and steer you back to me.
XVIII. buddha dharma, n.
Some may say I should act with compassion, give you time; you will reach out when you’re ready. They don’t know the pain gnawing at my ribs.
XIX. passionable, adj.
I’m an emotional person. You know that. Yes, I cried when you told me. Yes, I realize that upset you. But, it felt like the futures for you in my head died, turned to ash like those snake fireworks. It took me time to understand, but I still love you.
XX. ecopoiesis, n.
So, I may have told Janet you have a girlfriend. I didn’t quite realize it, but really, it’s easier this way— you know how she talks with the other church ladies. I just don’t think they’d be able to handle the idea one of the boys they taught catechism to is gay. You would understand, wouldn’t you?
XXI. rhyparography, n.
I was cleaning your room — I swear — and I came across an old shoebox with that boy’s name on it. I’m sorry, I looked; I couldn’t help it. It was full of notes he wrote to you. I didn’t even know kids still passed paper notes. Such beautiful handwriting of such filthy language.
XXII. ankimo, n.
Yesterday was your birthday, we had your favorite dinner in your honor, and Western emailed me that tomorrow is Family Weekend. The signs were all there: I have to drive up to see you.
XXIII. muskoka chair, n.
Your father won’t come with me. He says he can’t get time off from the hospital and also that me going is a bad idea. He was repotting the monstera he allowed to take over that chair from his garden. He just doesn’t get it.
XXIV. mamaguy, v.
As I back out of the driveway, go through the labyrinth of our neighborhood, I brainstorm what to say to you when I get there. A joke, maybe, a nickname from your childhood, when we were close. Maybe that’ll bridge the gap, since I didn’t call you beforehand.
XXV. amakhosi, n.
North on 167, I drive by the huge hill in Auburn we used to live on, the arena they built over the field your track meets were on, the bowling alley we had your birthday parties at.
XXVI. coboss, int.
405 is jammed, more than usual. Probably other families going to Western to see their kids who actually tell them what’s going on in their lives.
XXVII. dark side, n.
The signs were always there, I guess, like the absence of birds before a storm. Your first grade teacher called one day, saying you were hugging another boy and smelling his hair. I talked to you about it, thinking it was a personal-bubble misunderstanding. I should have paid better attention to what they told you in school. Why would you do this to me?
XXVIII. curatorium, n.
Anger froths like baking soda and vinegar. It was probably those grooming teachers poisoning your mind. That boy or your friends tearing you away from me. Those shady social networks with their algorithms twisting the knife. Why else would you end up this way? Why else would you stop talking to me?
XXIX. birdikin, n.
You were so precious when you were younger, so fragile— when you were my child. What happened? What went wrong? What could I have done differently?
XXX. wabi-sabi, adj. and n.
You are still my son. You are worth my time. You are worth saving. A line of dominoes tumbles up my spine. I pull over to the shoulder, put the car in park. Why do I see you as imperfect? When did I come to that conclusion?
XXXI. scooptram, n.
You don’t want to see me. I can’t blame you, because I never really saw you. On the edge of Mount Vernon, I watch cars cross the Skagit River bridge, the one that collapsed when you were young. They drive by unflinching, leave me behind.
2 thoughts on “A Gap Where You Used to Be”
Something inside me broke reading this. Beautiful piece. Love and joy to you 💜
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Thank you so much!
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