“I’m so sorry.”
The chocolate brown woman shook her head as she embraced me, the two of us in the nearly empty corridor. It was August, the beginning of the school year. It was my first time seeing Mrs. Jackson, a long-term substitute at the elementary school where I worked. My had mother died unexpectedly just before the last days of school the previous year, so coworkers who saw me still offered condolences.
“It’s been ten years since my mom died. You never get over it,” she said to my cheek. I nodded as we pulled away, not sure how to take her news.
Today is my mom’s birthday. It was ten years this May.
She was right.
Mama’s voicemail sounded an alarm. “I’m not feeling well. Call me back.” I returned her call right away. No answer. Heart pounding, eyebrows raised, I left a message in return, chiding her for scaring me by leaving mysterious messages and then refusing to answer the phone. In my nearly 30 years of life, I’d never heard her say anything so ominous.