Before It All Came Tumbling Down

There was a moment that now seems so long ago, with you and me, and them, all of us together, and it was New Year’s Eve, and we were sitting on the sofa waiting for the time to count down, waiting on a new beginning, and we sat there together underneath a blanket, the fabric itching my skin but I didn’t mind, and they had fallen asleep for a bit, one of them had their head on my lap, the other on my shoulder, and it struck me in that moment to imagine that this might be what a family is, what it’s like to have one, and my heart filled with such a yearning, one I’ve never felt before, and I thought of how this could be happiness, and maybe in retrospect it was false, not real, since what were we anyway except a group of broken people who’d all known loss in extraordinary ways (them their mother, as well as me with mine, oh god my mother, how I miss her so), who all had come together in replicating what was taken, but in that moment with you and them it felt like something, a becoming, if you will, and I wanted to remember it, and still now there is the desire to hold on to this moment so ordinary, but it is always the most ordinary of moments you later want to keep, because those are the ones most representative of life, of living, and I think now of what I thought then—if this is the closest I’ll ever get to such a moment then I will take it, so please let me have this, this ordinary moment of perfection, please just let me have this, whether real or not it doesn’t matter, the rest of it doesn’t matter anymore, this memory will be enough, if I can hold onto it, let me remember it a little longer, please don’t let me forget, for as long as I can let myself remember, please I’ll say over and over, my own prayer, and I am a child once again asking for what she’ll never have (for her mother to be with her, to stay with her just a little longer), and yet, still I call for it, still I say over and over, please just let me remember, if I can have nothing else, then let me have, at least, this.

LaTanya McQueen is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (2022 Fellowship in Prose) and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is the author of two books—the essay collection And It Begins Like This (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) and the novel When the Reckoning Comes (Harper Perennial, 2021).