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I’ll never forget the sight of you, dead in the garden; I couldn’t look away from your body. The blood, and the bugs crawling all over you. The blackbirds eating you up. My only love, carrion. You were the one person on this earth who knew where I lived and breathed. What am I supposed to do without you?

Never have I ever believed in Heaven, but just now, I’m wishing Heaven were real, if only to know the memories of our life together don’t belong to me alone.

But does an unbound soul even keep memories? Silly to believe so, isn’t it?

I remember our first date—a picnic out at the gravel pits. It was my sixteenth birthday. You kissed me at sunset with sticky lips underneath the pink June sky—my first French kiss. Your tongue tasted like golden wine coolers and cheap menthol cigarettes. You kissed me, and it was the beginning of everything.

© Kindra M. Austin

 

She has my head in her lap. Her fingers are raking through my sweat tangled hair; it kind of hurts, but I don’t want to pull away. All I need now is my little yellow plastic cup filled with apple or grape juice.

I’m crushing ants with my thumb as they speed along the cracks in the concrete. Some of them are carrying dead insects.

Hurry home, little ants. Run for your lives.

I hope I’m not doing anything important when I die. I can’t stand the thought that it might happen while I’m in the middle of something with Peter, or even doing something mundane, like driving home with a Saturday night pizza and movie rental. I guess I can’t stand the thought of dying, period. Not that I’m afraid of my own death. I just don’t want the people I love to be sad.

My thumb is so fast, the ants don’t have time to realize they’re about to die. What’s it like, Renny? Or maybe drowning doesn’t work that way. Your death happened so quickly, maybe you were just like these ants; unaware of God’s thumb poised overhead.

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-5-

OUT OF ORBIT

 

I wish I didn’t want Dad back. Or you, little sister. It hurts too much to want. And it’s too damn hard to figure out which hurts me more, missing the dead, or missing the living; though I don’t know why it should really matter.

What I do know is that I don’t like going to the race track half expecting to see our dad in the stands, or to the lake half hoping to find him at the cabin. I don’t want to miss the man who could no longer stand beside his wife, who could no longer stand the sight of his daughter.

But I do miss him, despite this distinct hollow he created in me when he drove away and out of my life. It would be better for me if he were dead, I think. If he were dead, I might be able to accept his nothingness. I wish Grandma had never told me where to find him; that I know where he lives only nurtures my pain.

Maybe you’ve caught me a time or twelve between the rows of red maple, driving up his blacktop lane. If you have then you know I always lose my nerve midway, and I back straight out, wondering if anyone outside or in had even noticed I was there.

I wish I could just admit to myself that he’s no longer my dad, forget the bastard. Unsee his new life with his new wife, and their perfect fucking stone gable house; one just like our mother had always wanted!

Christ. What right do I even have to feel abandoned by him? I failed him first when I failed to save you, his heart.

You were Mom’s heart, too. She and Dad, they were both satellites revolving around the seemingly infinite and magnificent you. After you died, the fights began again, and the affairs. And they couldn’t stay together, which further proved that nobody was anything valuable without you.

I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to the envy I sometimes felt, even for a little while after you were gone. When I think about all the time I had wasted on feeling jealous of you, I could vomit. But envy or no, you were also my heart. You were my best friend. My sun.

When you died, I fell out of orbit, too.

I remember how strange and lonely the nights had become after you were gone. Sometimes I would leave my bed and climb up into your bunk. It didn’t matter though, where I lay, because I always just lay and stare into blankness. At least in the summer months I had the crickets to listen to; autumn and winter brought nothing at all to soothe me.

A lot of the time, for the first year or so, I would go to bed in the dark and see the dawning of day without ever having slept. There was no difference between day and night. Neither ever brought you back.

I wish I could just stop thinking. But I’m on a roll.