My dead mom communicates with me using fortune cookies.
And the weird thing is, she hated Chinese food.
(“Um, no, whackjob. The weird thing is that you think your dead mom communicates with you using fortune cookies.”)
But seriously. It’s all very Sylvia Browne. Only Chinese:
Before she died, my mom promised me that once she was… gone… she would figure out a way to come back and give me a sign that she was still around. Maybe this was meant to dissuade me from smoking weed, hooking or—worse—getting a B- on a final exam, but I’d like to think that she made this promise as a way of comforting me—a way of saying, “even if I’m not with you, I still am.”
Still, her solemn vow—said with such powerful conviction—made me search our house (in vain) for medical marijuana.
But then, a few days after she died, I started looking for signs. Waiting for a breath of wind on my neck. Searching for a Morse Code message in a flickering candle. Hoping to catch a whiff of Gap Dream and cigarettes in an empty room. Anything.
“But mom, you promised,” I sobbed one afternoon when I was back in Berkeley, missing her so much my skin hurt. “You promised!”
I fell asleep crying, falling hard and fast into wobbly dreams.
When I woke up, sledged with sticky tears and smeared mascara, I saw it: Lying next to me on the pillow was a small strip of paper with the words “You are Loved” written on it in small red typeset.
I picked up the fortune, holding it with trembling fingers. I hadn’t eaten Chinese food in weeks, and I didn’t remember seeing this particular message, and even if I had cracked open a cookie to discover “You are Loved,” what the hell was it doing on my pillow when it hadn’t been there hours earlier.
My heart tripped, and I got out of bed and checked the door to the studio apartment. Locked.
I looked in the bathroom. Empty.
The kitchen. Clear.
Crouched down, I checked under the bed. No monsters there.
Only the plink plink plink of the faucet dripping in the bathroom played with the stillness in the apartment.
(All horror movies have this sound right before the slutty girl gets gutted.)
Plink plink plink.
But then, just as I was thinking seriously about calling the Five-O a ray of light pierced the window and illuminated the fortune nestled on the pillow. And in my mind, I heard the words spoken clearly in my mom’s reedy voice “You are Loved.” Slowly, I picked up the fortune again and whispered the words aloud “You are Loved.” I said it again, with more conviction: “You are Loved,” and for the first time since my mom died, I felt safe.
“But mom, you hate Chinese food,” I whispered.
She didn’t have to answer.
The thing is, I live in Israel now, where the Dim Sum tastes just like my Bubbe’s kneidlach, and fortune cookies are freaking hard to find. So, I wasn’t hearin from my mom as much. And I miss her. Every. Day. I. Miss. Her.
Oh how I miss her, especially when each day takes me further and further from the last day I saw her, as I begin to forget the sound of her voice, or the way that she moved. Oh how I miss her as the inside jokes that were ours slip from my memory, and I’m no longer sure what she would say when I’m struggling with something that’s bigger than I can handle.
But still, she finds a way to remind me that no matter what, she’s still there. Even in a place almost as unlikely as the space between a crunchy fortune cookie.
And just yesterday, when I got in a taxi from the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, I looked up and hanging from the driver’s rear view mirror was a pale pink heart inscribed with the words “You Are Loved.”
I blinked. It couldn’t be.
But it was.
“Can I take a picture,” I asked the driver, my fingers trembling as I entered my iPhone password, and selected a photo app. “It’s a long story but my mother likes to send me messages like these even though she died eight years ago.”
I’m not sure which was harder for him to understand — my whacked out Hebrew, or my whacked out explanation. But no matter.
“Yes, Kapara, take the picture. And take the heart with you. That way you never forget.”