- To pierce my ears. All she needs is a needle, ice cube and potato. I imagine it goes ice cube first, then needle, then potato. I say no.
- To give me money. Do I need money? There’s a twenty-dollar bill in her purse.
- To swim. She has lived somewhere with a pool for the last thirty years. She knows grandkids, and knows me. We make plans for Tuesday.
- To tell me her story. Maybe, she says, I can sell it and make money. Why does she think I need money so badly? I have to remember to dress better when I visit.
- To tell me her story. What happened in the war. I can tape it.
- To tell me her story. A young girl in the camps. I look at her like who. She looks at me like yes.
- To tell me her story. I can’t speak the five other languages she knows, but maybe if I slow down enough in this one, if I sit still, if I listen to what she is so clearly trying to express, I will know something. Maybe I will start to know her. She doesn’t use these words, but only because she already has in so many ways, in so many offers.
- To tell me her story. The pitch-black train, the days of hunger, the German shepherd, the man pointing right, the man pointing left, the sprint, the tears, the held breath, the stolen potato, the empty barn, the gunshots, the typhus, the bodies, the bodies, the bodies, the desperate thirst. All the things I know nothing about.
- To tell me her story. Sometimes the offer is for the other person to make an offer, to give a little more than they take. But she only gives and I only take, so I take this. I take the weight of memory and hold it in my teeth. I take a hammer and nails, and build a shelf for all the silence. I take my love of language, my need for clarity and logic, the perfect phrasing, the crisp clean line, and send it to the pool for the afternoon. I let it float while I do the work of sitting still and listening, mixed-up words and loops of pain and shaking hands. I take her hand. I take in the ways I never have before, in the ways she has modeled, waiting for me to notice how much can be said without saying a word.
- To hem my pants. She points at my ankles and I say yes.
Brooke Randel is a writer and associate creative director in Chicago. Her writing has been published in Hippocampus,Hypertext Magazine, Jewish Fiction, and elsewhere. She is a prose editor for Chestnut Review. She is currently writing a memoir about her grandma, literacy and the legacy of the Holocaust. Find more of her work at brookerandel.com or follow her on Twitter at @brookerandel.