Alice’s mother was laying on her bed—above all of the covers—with her arms perpendicular to her body, like a supine, yogic Christ. Her eyes were closed and she grimaced, as if on cue, when she felt Alice’s gaze.
            “My triceps are killing me,” Alice’s mother said quickly, through clenched, closed eyes. “My new trainer told me to keep them away from my heart center to build strength.” Outside, the wind stood still listening to the leaves fall between the bony fingers of the naked trees.  
            Alice stood silently. Her mother rolled her hips around on top of Alice’s bedspread. “Your bed is sagging in the middle, you know.”On the cold city streets, dislocated cracks of sun fell through the horizon, dripping down the backs of cold steel buildings.  
            Offended by the light, her eyes fluttered open, then closed again, settling on Alice’s empty hands in the door frame. “Oh god, did you forget my Starbucks? Alice, I told you I flew in at 6 am—I’m exhausted!”
             Alice’s legs stiffened in the door frame as her eyes left her mother’s languid body and moved to meet the gaze that bore her own. Alice’s gaze was not challenging, but soft; soft like the particular softness in the middle where her mother lay—the weeping sagginess that is gentle in its willingness to allow for others’ misuse, that mushiness that lays silent without complaint. Soft like her own triceps, which were not hardened by a trainer. Soft like the autumn light, radiating upwards from the ground through the broken blinds, waking up the first floor with its exposing touch.  
            Soft like the aching dust of disconnection

Bria M. Berger is a writer and social worker from Michigan with a Master's in Social Work from University of Chicago. Her academic work has been presented at Sarah Lawrence College, Michigan State University, University of Chicago, and the Society for Social Work and Research.