her hips gradually increased. Maybe she was just copying her mother, from whom she inherited this ache in the first place. Just as we all will. Or she picked it up as a way to ask for help without really having to ask. In any case: it makes her old. I’m fine, don’t worry about me, you go on ahead, she says to me without taking her hand off my arm. It’s annoying how slow she is. We’re forced to go so slowly that there’s only ever this one lumbering pace. It makes me antsy, doesn’t feel natural to me. Rather, it wouldn’t to anyone. It’d be easier to deal with if my father were here and we could share the burden. I want to tell her to cut it out, but I don’t. She’d just snap back at me anyway: You know perfectly well…! Then she’d probably start crying like the last time I let something like that slip out, then refuse to speak to me. For a day. Maybe two. The first time she’d ever said anything like that to me; that hurt my feelings, she’d said. We’d gone shopping. Christmas season was in full swing, and the City Center mall was packed with people. Our plan was to buy the presents for the entire family in one trip, but after just an hour she was exhausted. She sat down on a bench in one of the dressing rooms even though neither of us had anything to try on. Crossing her arms, she said, You know I can’t go so fast, you always walk so fast. That’s not true, I said, can’t we go shopping just once without it being such a big deal? I rolled my eyes. She gasped for air, that’s what it looked like, stammered something, I don’t remember what. Then she pursed her lips and just sat there. I became aware at that moment, watching her sit there — mouth pouting, arms crossed, eyes averted — that she’d changed in the past few years, that this way of walking had thinned her skin.