78. It is their mom who breaks the news to them, one by one, Amy first


It is their mom who breaks the news to them, one by one, Amy first. It is July 26, 1997. Their dad is in Minnesota filling in for a friend at the Summer School of the Rochester Community and Technical College. It is strange to think that their father has so many friends, none of whom they really know. Amy and Zoe have often wondered where they came from.

She tells her. Amy says oh the way she’d say it to someone she didn’t know, like she means to say okay but forgot to finish.

Then their mother tries to give her a hug, but now Amy recoils, eyes bulging, blood cold. Their mother tries again. Amy pushes her away, hard as she can. Their mother staggers back, and for one split second, she doesn’t seem to know what she should do. Amy stares and backs away.

At first, before she blames herself, she blames their mother. Then Zoe walks into the room, and Amy and their mother turn to her, and the three of them just stand there, in silence, and then Amy runs out.

Amy runs out the front door and down the steps of the porch. She runs down the sidewalk and then down the driveway. She gets to the street, and she keeps running. She runs and runs and runs all the way down New Haven until it ends. She is all out of breath now and has a stitch in her side, but she can’t stop. She turns and does a dragging lope down a couple more blocks till she gets to Whiteside Park. She sits down in a swing.

She looks straight ahead of her and then slips out, sliding down onto the woodchips, with the swing sideways against the backs of her knees. She lets it go. She brings her knees to her chest.

Now it hits her, and she begins to apologize into the air, over and over: I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. Because Amy is the one who did this. Amy is bad luck. Amy has infected everything she’s truly loved. Amy has poisoned them, and she should have known, and she should have done something. She should have done something. She should have done something.

How can it be too late?

As evening falls she tries to go home, but she has lost her sense of direction, and she drags herself down blocks that could be anywhere for what seems like it must be hours, until finally somehow she finds their long, squat house, the clumsy globs of gray between the rough red brick, and entering unnoticed she makes her way back to their bedroom and goes to sleep beneath their bed.