Each Day Is the Same Backward and Forward

"Day Eighty-four," a story by Aimee Bender

plastic pieces on the floor

Each Day Is the Same Backward and Forward

Day Eighty-four

I put a palindrome above the sink in the bathroom: Madam I’m Adam, on a piece of white paper, taped to the wall. To entertain the children, who are home all the time now. Who are bored. I put it up and felt like fun mom for a short time and then later, experienced the patience drain out of me around 3pm, like it just left my body all at once, like a liquid exit, like my body is a shotgunned beer and someone just drank me and my patience down. It is like that with me: not a slow ebb, but a sudden sharp emptying. I snap at both children. I have that edge to my voice that I hate hearing in other people. My voice tainting the room’s mood, the kids going to the other room to get a break from me.  Later, I am a bit better, maybe food helped, or a little time on email of all things, just that small package of quiet time deleting email after email, and my son sees the palindrome sign and is delighted. “It’s that thing!” he says, pacing back and forth, trying to remember. “What is it called, when it’s the same letters back and forth?” My husband, sitting and looking at his phone in the living room, tells him it’s called a pandemic. We are all so tired. My son comes back into the bathroom, where I am now washing my hands after unpacking some groceries, and there’s a bubble of good-natured confusion in his voice when he says, “is it a pandemic when the words are the same backwards and forwards?” I start laughing even though I don’t want to confuse him more, but something about it fits, seems true, and I say, “Daddy’s just messing with you,” and even our son can tell something doesn’t sound quite right but by then I can’t spit out the real word and we are both laughing and laughing, clutching our stomachs, my son rolling into the towel hanging from the rack to catch his breath even though he’s still not totally sure which of these two long p words is for what, my daughter hearing and coming into the room laughing, what? what? their dad coming over, and laughing, all of us releasing something together for a moment, our daughter saying, my tummy hurts, my tummy hurts! the glorious tumbling laughter of children, and then our son says, “wait, what is a pandemic anyway?’ which I’m sure we’ve explained, but how to make sense of it anyway, and for a short second before the definitions descend the word isn’t anything scary at all.

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