I am here, having settled children in school.
Where have these women been before here?
Most are a decade or two older than me, a few younger.
Their husbands and mine waiting stoic. “I’ll see you,” one says; he waits, outside the swallowing door, unread book in his limp hand.
Veterans in hats, eyebrows missing, know the drill, the door, stay busy, don’t look around questioningly. They are well versed in the waiting.
We wait with the pink pumpkins painted HOPE at the check-in desk.
We walk a silent unknown road together but each alone.
Each waits her turn in silent decorum, learned in childbearing and -rearing, in letting go.
Names are called in staggered succession, mispronounced by cheery technicians dressed in heavy pink hope.
I change into the robe worn by many women—those too young, those I know and love, those I miss.
Someday, one day, we won’t need hope anymore. We’ll see face to face.
I turn the key, walk into my house. A wave of relief floods me—they had been too long looking at images before declaring me free.
But memory of the knowing ones, whose rooms lined the other hall, is heavy.