Loose Threads in the Lifeline
My grandmother was the first. At best, I felt nothing at her funeral; at worst, I felt mere boredom. She was too old to have been involved in my life, and I was too young to recognize the loss.
As he slept in the passenger seat, a shirt draped across the window to block the sunlight, I wondered if he would ever open his eyes again. I wanted to shake him and hear his protests as he fought the morning light. I wanted to release the wheel and grip his shoulders while the car tore down the interstate on its own.
But today wasn’t about what I wanted, so we drove onward.
The second came as a teenager, and still it inspired curiosity more than it did sorrow. I watched from a balcony as the coroner examined the body, and I wondered what it had felt like for that man to fly.
He had called me shortly after receiving the news. I thought he was pulling my leg, his voice calm and even, like he was reciting baseball scores. I drove over anyway, and he waved in dismissal when I brought it up. We didn’t talk much more about it, and spent the first few hours like any other day, drinking and playing cards. I noticed he kept checking the clock; once I had a good buzz going, it fueled my confrontation.
“What’sa matta, man?” I said. “I ain’t borin’ you, am I?”
Figures—buddy tells me he’s due to expire, and I somehow make it about myself. Like no one’s dying until I got my money’s worth.
As always, he played it cool. He smiled in reassurance, pointed out that our cans were running low, and suggested we might want to step out for a bit.
In the early morning after my twenty-fourth birthday, when the lights of first responders lined my neighbor’s driveway like the beacons down a runway, when I was convinced the ambulance was his private jet leading him to the heavens, I closed my curtains to block the red and blue reflections from disrupting the television.
It was hard to clear that initial confession from the air but, for the most part, the day continued on a similar track. Truth be told, I was glad for that. When we were young and more melodramatic, it seemed that almost every day something would spring up and cause one of us to declare, as if life were as easy to snuff out as a light switch, “Man, I wanna die right now.”
When we were twelve, the appropriate response was to chide the other, call them a baby, and knuckle them in the ribs. At that age, life did seem like a light switch. You play games where you form guns with your fingers, shoot each other dead, and pull each other back up to safety, each taking turns to play the hero. We’re not born with a circuit in place for us to make the connection to what’s on the other side.
As years passed, we followed different tracks and found our own truths. When we reconnected all those years later, we were both a bit worse for wear, frayed at the edges and hoping that if we wove together then maybe, just maybe, we’d come out stronger.
So when he said it again, all those years later, I thought it was the melodramatic kid, poking his head to peek through a hole in the fabric. Nothing that a few stitches couldn’t fix.
We drove onward.
Some people fill their garage with exhaust, while some put their Boy Scout knots to the test. I heard that one woman, halfway across the world, sprinted off the balcony in a crowded mall.
There are signs along the road, but most of us are either driving too quickly or sleeping in the passenger seat. I wish I had seen the chevrons that said slow down, this is a difficult twist of fate to deal with.
Death did not feel real until I could blame myself for this one.
It’s only three weeks into this project and I already have my first late post. While I’m not particularly surprised, I hoped I could maintain the façade¹ of consistency for at least a little while longer.
That being said, what’s done is done, and at least I have a short story to show for the week. Better yet, it’s one that I’m quite proud of. Perhaps it could use a bit of refinement, but I think it tackles some heavy concepts in a way that I appreciate and can relate to. Then again, I suppose that’s the purpose of writing. I feel I may have gone overboard with having so many different sections and breaks in the narrative. One possible solution would be to expand the piece, which may be something I attempt as the weeks pass.
Until then, I hope you enjoyed this week’s story. As always, please feel free to reach out via the comments. Forty-nine to go.
¹ Is this the correct use of “façade,” or should the English form of “facade” be used?