My grandmother used to say she was born from an egg. Wasn’t everybody? I would ask. I was old enough then to understand that much when she told me. “I am hatched from egg, Anoushka. Not everybody is that.”
I would pat her hand and ask if she wanted more tea.
One day when she said it, her finger flew up in the air and her eyes popped open wide as if she’d discovered a new element or remembered where she’d left her keys. “I will get shell and show you!” She hopped up and hobbled off to her room while her tea sat staining the inside of her cup. And when she came back, she was holding half an eggshell, as black and shiny as night made liquid, with an infinity of shimmering red triangles and green diamonds swirling around the circumference. A golden maze design enshrouded it like lace. “Is this.”
“This?” I reached out to touch it, half-expecting my fingertip to meet wet paint.
She smacked my hand away. “No, Anoushka. Never touch egg unless invited, da?”
This seemed unreasonable. “And why?”
Her eye kinked with grave concern. “Careless touch ruins fate. You might break.”
“It’s already broken, Baba.”
She closed her eyes and pursed her lips. “Shell cracks twice: first time to let in life, next time to let in death.”
“Touch with eyes, not with hands, da?”
She raised it before me, this glittering husk that once held her…or so she wanted me to believe. “Let eyes walk maze,” she whispered. “Tell Baba what you find.”
I spied the entrance, a tiny break in the pattern, and my vision traced the black path between the golden walls. I felt myself become miniature, descending into the lacquer. The ridges of the pattern rose up and enclosed me as I moved, entire painted gardens of color exploding around me as I went. She turned the shell as I needed her to, anticipating my path, watching me wander until my way was certain. As I made it to the other side, I learned the truth about her strange assertion. “You found me, Anoushka – da?” she asked.
Baba smiled with delight and mystery. “Da. I am hatched from egg, and your father from me, and you from him. We are all from egg.”
The wonder of it silenced me.
“You see now why is important to handle careful.” She turned the shell, letting it catch firelight from the morning sun as it seared through the window. “Delicate.” She closed her eyes again, as though in prayer. “To not let break—”
The shell dropped onto the table and rolled onto the floor.
Baba shrugged. “Oops.”
I scrambled to it, gathered it up gingerly, like it was a wounded thing. The lace pattern was split down the middle now, a chasm opened in the design that connected my family to itself. Molten light shone through the separation. “Oh no…it broke, Baba.” My heart throbbed in panic.
Baba dropped lumps of sugar into her tea and stirred. “Eh. Like you said, was already broken.”
“But you said the next time it would let in death.” We were all from the egg; we were all subject now to the ruined fate of her careless touch.
She sipped and shrugged and grimaced in that old woman way she had. “Da,” she said as I shrank, as the gardens of color exploded and the golden maze rose around me again. “Was bound to get in sooner or later.”