When I was a child, I can remember believing charms had magic and rhymes had power. The very connection between the words made cracks and errant steps dangerous to my mother, and rain could be banished to some distant point in the future. It never seemed to bother me that the storms didn’t stop immediately, or that my mother’s back remained intact even through occasional inattention.
I wish that had never changed. It was the sort of delusion that let you feel like you had some power over the things none of us control. It kept away the helplessness that rises up from your feet to choke out your breath. It kept me from freezing, even with it seemed like thunder and lightning were tearing the world apart.
I froze, when I heard my mother scream. There was nothing I could have done, not from the other end of the phone line and behind too many locked doors, but I still should have been able to force out the words, “What’s wrong?”
Not that I needed to. Even though I was hoping, repeating it over and over, that I was wrong. I might even have managed a rhyme, but all I can remember is Please don’t be dead.
But charms have no power. Not in the real world.