In a room somewhere else.

It sounds like running water. When you peel back the veil and listen.

The other side. Every consciousness streaming past you. Tumbling over rocks of physical bodies. Limitless, yet affected by the people that they love. That they hate.

It’s really beautiful, if you don’t think too much about it. If you lie back and listen, only listen, to the rushing, bubbling sound of souls trickling past the shores of waking life, just outside of time. But you don’t want to dip your hand in. No, I had to learn that the hard way.

You must listen. Only, listen.

I step up to the river bank. It’s a construct I’ve built to help guide me through the void. I picture the oblivion beyond the veil as a shallow, fresh water stream, wide and clear, lined with a kaleidoscope of smooth river stones, just like the trout streams back home. My father used to wade out in to the center of the great one behind our house, water up to his knees in the spring time, and cast great glimmering loops of fly line through the air — droplets of water catching the sunlight, tiny prisms. It looked like angel dust to me. A moment later, a spackled rainbow trout would appear his his hands. He’d lean over, let me run my fingertips along the slimy, shining back of the gasping fish. Then back into the water she went, no worse for the wear. I remember his smile underneath the brim of his ball cap.

The rush of the steam is louder here at the edge. I listen. Tall beside the water. I’ll kneel down if I need to get closer. I search for her voice. The photograph her mother brought sits clasped in my hand. I can see it with my eyes, though it’s not here at the riverbank with me.

And there she is. The rush of the stream dies away as a sweet baby doll voice rises to the surface. A little girl, four or five years old, singing some child’s song on stage with her classmates. She’s in a sparkly silver dress, a wide sequined tutu around a silver leotard, rhinestones on her soft mary janes. She’s got a full head of curly blonde hair, pulled up into a bouncing fountain at the top of her head. Silver bow. This is her.

I kneel now. Close to the water’s edge but closer still to her tiny voice. She’s so happy. Singing, being on stage makes her happiest in the world. She loves to perform, to make her voice heard, to see her parent’s faces beaming up at her from the crowd. That’s who she’s performing for. Not the auditorium of all her classmate’s moms and dads and brothers and sisters, her teachers or coaches or their friends— her parents only. This show is for her, this show is for them.

I can’t see her parents, of course. They’re not really there. But in her facet of this universe, she’s reliving the happiest day of her life with them.

In a room somewhere else, I speak:

“She’s happy,” I say. “She’s so happy.” I tell them. “She’s singing.” I can’t help but crack a smile myself at her exuberance. “She could stay on stage forever just singing for you.”

The little girl knows I’m talking about her now, and so she turns her head to face me. Her lips aren’t moving, but I know what she’s telling me. Her eyes are alight. It’s ok that I’m here. She has a message.

“She wants you to know she loves you very much, and she sees you, she loves to see you.” I say in another room.

“She wants you to know that she’s so happy here, and she can’t wait for you to be happy here, too. But she also wants you to be happy where you are now. And to take care of Millie until Millie can come, too.”

In a room somewhere else, I know they’re crying. I can feel it — the shock, the disbelief, the confounded happiness, and the overwhelming sorrow that pours over it all. I can’t focus on that right now, though.

She gives me a baby tooth grin, dimples appearing in her cheeks. She’s so happy now, and she deserves every moment of this. Every child does. I try to think about that at night, when I can’t sleep because the residue of loss keeps me up. Every child deserves the happiness they eventually get to on the other side of the veil. After the pain, the suffering. After the sickness, the sterile hospital rooms, or the bruising, the bleeding, the visceral, tearing, heaving pain of an accident. After the confusion, the trauma, the misplaced trust or years of neglect. After every evil, a child deserves this. Her day on stage, forever, with her family watching, cheering her on.

In a room somewhere, I tell them, “She’s so happy. And she loves you very much.”

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