“Hi Mama.” I lean over her tiny figure and brush the edge of her forehead with my lips.

The weight of the necklace tucked below my shirt collar tumbles out and sways just above her face. Two metal anchors, one the color of warm iron, and one of gold, become entangled. My mother’s eyes follow them back and forth wildly and she lifts bony fingers to clutch them. 

“It’s new.” I explain. “The anchor is the symbol of hope and balance, stability and home. I think it might be associated with Sagittarius too. Or that might have been the bow and arrow…?” I trail off, not sure if she’s really hearing, but doubtful it matters. I know it’s the sound of my voice that she wants. “I thought it might help me stay grounded when I’m working on the boats.”

“You are my anchors.” She whispers, and in her urgency pulls harder. The metal cuts against my neck.

My brother’s backpack languishes by the door. He can never stand being here more than a few minutes.

She releases the anchors one at a time, turning to the window. Rain hovers in front of her view of the mountain.

“Can you put the lotion on?”

The skin of her hands is slowly peeling off in large pieces that I cannot believe she hasn’t pulled at. The gentlest tug could release a palm shaped rind. I can’t handle even the smallest hangnail or scab; I pick at everything until it scars. But her patience is boundless. I work the lotion slowly around her wrists and up between her fingers. It isn’t unscented as it claims. It smells of this room, of this disease, of the chemicals breathing their way out of her entire body. I suppress a gag reflex.

Three years later I no longer wear the necklace. The chain proved too long, always resting uncomfortably against my chest, twisting around until the points of the larger anchor dug into my skin, as if to say ‘You cannot return home. You cannot move forward. You are held here, in the bellows of this constant churning sea.’