The best they could, but badly

Often I wish that I had natural singing talent, because I think the chalky, malodorous melancholia which I am prone to writing would be more palatable in the form of lyrics.

When I hear that my last grandparent has died, news that arrives to me thirdhand, I feel a single note rise out of my body. It bubbles out of the skin of my chest and bursts in the air. The note is limp, subdued, like the mewl of a dying hare, its pink-ringed eyes caught between the gasp of curved fangs. After the puncture of realization, the moment evaporates into a glimmer of amethyst and then dust. Gone with no ceremony of feeling, no heraldry of sentiment. I’ve spent years wondering what this knowledge would feel like and now I have final confirmation of what I’ve long suspected: the death can happen long before the death happens. You mourn the death before you know you are mourning the death. Blood is merely blood.

Shattering the surface of the frozen pool, memories float up in crates that I slash open, one by one. A vintage perfume bottle with a crystalline stopper. Snow-white ringlets, permed to surreal perfection. The greenish coolness of a tiled room in the afternoon, all the shades drawn. The periodic table, a multi-colored rectangle shaped like a fortress, which she knew by heart. Ocean waves, lapis in the sun. Everything but the face. I wade in to rescue these things for my small kingdom, knee-deep and shivering from the cold, as vultures circle the pool.

1 comment

  • That last paragraph is so evocative. Sending a hug, and my sympathy, Em. Are you very far away from all your family? I imagine it must be harder to grieve alone (although in some families – maybe not).

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