We sit at a table in The Glade—a room named for the sappy paintings of pastoral scenes on its walls. Their grasses and trees are carefully balanced and in them nothing lurks or lives. Their author may never have been outdoors. My son stomps through these flat meadows sniffing for something to tree, to bother, to chase, to eat, to kill. He’s eight. His father sits across the table smiling beatifically. It is so good to see me doing so well. My new hair suits me. What do the staff think of my progress? While he sits with his questions, I take up the glass from the table and decorously into it spit. For two weeks I’ve been spitting whatever this tang is—new health, or the aftertaste of my favorite poisons. My glass is now half full. When I don’t answer, he offers an overly detailed runthrough of their plans for the day. Occasionally, our son corrects him, not for my understanding, but to let Dad know who’s boss now that his parents can’t conspire to shape his day. Come sit with your mother. She misses you. Although she hasn’t said so. He stands before me tall, fit and undeniable. I act as I always do. Taking my hands in his, and stepping on all of my toes, he pulls back and yanks me into an unsteady stand, unwillingly up from my chair, clutching his shoulders for balance. I do the safe thing as always and don’t react. We stroll the painted meadows until it’s time for them to go. Halfway to the exit, he says something to his dad and they bust up laughing with great relief and don’t look back. They’re joking about me. I don’t mind, compared to the fear they’ve already moved on.

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