I sit there at her feet watching her work. My mother is so skillful in manipulating that sleeve. Inside of it, my limb feels hot, suffocated. I let her control me, control my hand. It is no longer my hand.
By and by, a perfect calm comes upon me. I have no thought in my head, no clue that this is to be the last sunrise, the last morning that I spend with my mother; no premonition that our time together is running out, and that I should kiss her, and hug her, and bid her farewell.
Yet for some reason, glancing around me, I commit to memory every aspect of this scene, every detail: The vivid pattern of the rug, spread across the dirt floor. The embroidered silk pillows, leaning against the woven headrest. The little blemish, barely visible in the corner of the blanket. The silver thread coming apart, at one point, at the bottom of the canvas. The jug of water, half hidden behind the curved leg of the bed.
I can hear little noises: The occasional cry of a newborn baby, searching blindly for his mother’s breast. The light snores of the maidservants, some of whom are just starting to wake up, only to fall asleep again. The yawns of the shepherd boys, stretching their limbs lazily under the sheepskins in the neighboring tents. The unrest of the sheep, the lambs, the kids, the goats, all eager to go out there, to graze in the sun-flooded fields.
Meanwhile the needle flies back and forth, forth and back, over my shoulder, catching the light in its path. I am transfixed. I wish I could stay here forever. This place is so full of charms.
This hour is so intimate; so sweet, and it is fast coming to its bitter conclusion.
And the only thing that disturbs me, the only thing that stands here between us, is not being able to look each other in the eyes, during the last moments that remain to us.
My mother gets up. She is a petite woman, but the snakeskin shoes give her some stature. She throws the remains of the damaged coat back into the chest. Then she pulls out one of her fur hats and sinks her face into it, taking in the smell. “The air of the hunt,” she says, then hands it to me. “Here, put it on.”
This is my charcoal on paper drawing of Rebecca's hands upon the hairy goatskin coat
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