The shop smells of Japanese incense. There are chakra crystals and handblocked fabric bags made in Tibet by a women's collective. There are angels in resin for a buck, magical rocks, and pyramids, and in the middle of lavender eye pillows, I see a smiling praying jizo statue for their garden. A big jizo. It is reasonably priced, and I imagine the red bib I will sew for him. He looks like one of my paintings. I ask the beautiful woman with long flowing scarves in August, and almost no shoes about the statues around her shop. There are jizos all around this place. I ask her if she has more. I want to see them all, and she leads me around the shop, showing me Buddhas, and jizos, and Hoteis. And the first jizo is the best. He is mine.
As we stop, I reach for him, turning up to heaven, hands in prayer position, smiling. The clerk touches my wrist where her name is written on my body. It is a sensual gesture, one of compassion. The touch of a stranger feels electric. Her finger rests on my pulse. It quickens.
What does that say?
Is that your name?
No, it is my daughter's name.
It's beautiful. How old is she?
Actually, she died.
How old was she when she passed?
At birth. She was just being born.
Our eyes meet. It is kind of true, I am trying to communicate. No, it is true. She didn't have an age. She would have been born soon. She died just before she was born, but she was still a baby. Stillborn sounds like miscarriage to strangers. And miscarriage is also difficult and physical and hard and not to be dismissed, if you don't want it dismissed, but those words, stillbirth, miscarriage, pregnancy loss open dismissal and distance from the fact that I gave birth to my six pound baby. Lucia looked like me, and I had to leave her in the hospital for an autopsy, then cremation. So, I said she died at birth. It's not a lie, really. What I really want to say is that I pushed her out of my vagina. She was limp and gray, and weighed more than my neighbor's living baby. Her eyes were bruised and the skin torn. I kissed her anyway, and had to push her little tongue back in her mouth so she would look more alive, because it was hard to see her dead. After I held her for a few hours, she grew cold. I couldn't bear it. I wanted more blankets to cover her, to warm her.
Do you have other children?
Yes. A two year old and a five year old. But Lucia is why I want the jizo, because jizos protect babies that die, and guide them into the next life. I paint them. Constantly paint them.
Yes. I paint them for other people all over the world and for myself. It is a ritual of forgiveness and remembrance.
She stared at me, tears welling. And then she hugged me. The clerk in the metaphysical store in a cluster of other stores held me. She said there was a light in me. And I could feel the darkness bubbling under the light. The dark is so overwhelming, I want to tell her, that all you can do is light stuff or it would consume us all. Even you, even your light, gauzey fabrics.
I kneel in front of the jizo I placed under her tree, next to the stepping stones we made for our two babies.
I'm sorry you died in me,I say.
There is no answer.
I'm sorry you died in me, I say again.
I chose to die like that, Mama.
You chose it too.
Don't apologize to me, Mama. I had a good life.
I light another stick of incense and jam it into the ground.
I'm sorry your baby died in you, Angie.
It's not okay, Angie. I'm not sure I forgive you.
I know, Angie.
But keep apologizing, Ang, I think it might be working.
I perform a ritual of forgiveness. It involves nothing selfless. It is all about me being forgiven. It is empty and dark and sad, and as I walk through it, I am come out the other side full and light and contented.
I think about the life I made out of her death. It involves writing and painting and going to metaphysical stores and letting go. I let go of friends. I let go of expectation. I let go of the future. I let go of my tears. I let go of naiveté. I let go of my baby. I let go of the darkness to embrace something dark in me. I let go of anger. I let go.
Today, I was over at Glow in the Woods writing about this thing that happened to me a few years ago. It was something I never talked about, or if I did, only privately to Jess or my husband, I think. I was embarrassed about it, actually, which sounds weird considering the emo shit I have owned on this blog, but still, you know, there once was a girl on the train and I loved her for a few minutes.