Five Years

It’s been five years now. In this time I’ve done so much, gone through so much, experienced so many new things, met so many new people, been disappointed so many times, been elated so many times, smiled and laughed so many times, cried and despaired so many times, learned so much, forgotten so much…
And all without you there.

Five years is almost a quarter of my lifetime. How awful is that? There are so many conversations that we haven’t been able to have. Growing up, at some point I began to find it difficult to know what you would say or how you would respond to certain situations because we’d never spoken about such things before. But I try my best to imagine what you would have said, because your voice will forever be a part of my life.

Five years. That’s way too long.

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Miss

I miss things.

I miss things that I’ve never had, like long, flowing blonde hair and dozens of friends who look up to me as the queen bee. I miss having wit and barb and fashion sense. I miss having rustic sensibilities and morals and pens made of feathers. I miss writing letters to lovers gone off to war and knitting booties at home for the baby next door. I miss drinking gin and smoking in a dark, romantic bar with a slew of friends gathered round me. I miss walking in fields of flowers with a dog trotting faithfully beside me. I miss having the time to watch sunsets or rather the will to do so. I miss the excitement of court or the comfort of freshly baked bread in the English countryside. I miss high-school dances and yearbooks, being in societies and clubs. I miss singing jazz and opera and dancing ballet in pointed shoes with a muscled partner to lift me up to the skies with grace and beauty. I miss flying a plane and being patted on the back by men who look up to me, my sunglasses hiding the glint of my eyes. I miss appreciating music because it is rare or ice-cream for the same reason.

I miss things that I’ve had and lost even more. I miss my childhood. I miss the joy of reading Harry Potter for the first time. I miss walking to nursery school in the mornings and thinking my parents would never die. I miss looking forward to my first kiss. I miss filling hours up with happiness and fun. I miss my spontaneity, my freedom with food, my baby fat. I miss spending time with my friends without feeling the gloom settle down on me. I miss being happy and optimistic, if ever such a thing were possible entirely. I miss lying in a bed with red sheets and only one pillow for two and knowing that I am loved unconditionally. I miss waking up to a smile, being greeted with joy. I miss conversations and kisses and hugs. I miss security and knowledge that the present is good. I miss feeling better all of a sudden.

I miss things. I miss times I’ve never had and times I hope I’ll have again and times that I know I never will. I miss people and words and glances and gestures. I miss.

On Command

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Lyle was practicing in front of the mirror again. He had on the army uniform costume that he’d worn on Halloween, and he’d stolen the medal out of his mom’s sock drawer. It was draped around his skinny neck, the gold-colored part resting somewhere around the level of his belt. He marched up and down in his room, trying to make his limbs as stiff as possible, and then turned back to the mirror.

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Under different circumstances, the sight of an eight-year old boy wearing a Halloween costume and walking like a robot would have been amusing. But as it was, it made Robby, Lyle’s older brother, throw his backpack violently across the room. It hit Lyle, who went down right in the middle of another salute.

“Shut up, you idiot, mom’ll be home soon!” Robby gave his brother an extra shove and went to the bathroom to shave. He’d been with his girlfriend after school, and she’d told him she didn’t like his itchy stubble. Trying to calm himself, Robby took out the old razor and placed it on the sink. He lathered his face with lotion, and began, with hands still trembling with anger, to scrape the old, thin blade across his cheek. He managed not to nick his right cheek, his upper lip and his chin, and moved on to the left cheek.

A scream seemed to tear the house into pieces. In the bathroom, Robby cursed as the razor blade cut into his cheek and blood started to seep out of the thin slice. It mixed with the shaving lotion until the lower half of his cheek looked like a marshmallow. Rinsing himself off, Robby got a wad of toilet-paper and held it to his cut as he opened the bathroom door with a crash. A horrible scene met his eyes.

Lyle was face down on the floor, his mother leaning over him. She had the ribbon the medal hung on in one thin, wasted hand, and she was pulling at it, hard. It was still around Lyle’s neck.

“Mom!” Robby dashed forwards, and forced his mother’s hand to let go. He heaved her backwards, away from Lyle, pushing her until she was leaning against the far wall. Her eyes looked dead, and she made no move to go back to strangling her son, so Robby left her and bent over Lyle, turning him over. He was breathing – crying, choking on his mucus and tears, but breathing nonetheless. He huddled in Robby’s embrace, hiding from their mother. Flashing a look of scorn towards her, Robby picked him up and carried him to their tiny, shared room. He took the medal off of him, got him out of the costume and put him in bed. He drew the covers over him and tucked them snug. Lyle was already asleep when he left the room, curled up into a ball.

“How could you, Mom?” Robby faced his mother, who still hadn’t moved from where he’d pushed her. He held the medal forth. “This is what you want? This stupid piece of tin and some gold paint? Take it! Here, take it!” He threw the medal at her feet. Her eyes moved towards it, and she finally moved, kneeling down to pick it up. She looked at it lying in her hand, caressed it, and then held it closely to her breast. Raising her eyes, she gave Robby a withering glare. He didn’t budge, didn’t say a word.

“You never – do you hear me, son? You never talk about your father’s memory that way again.”

She rushed into her bedroom, closing and locking the door, before Robby could scream at her that his father was dead, that he died in a stupid war, that the medal didn’t really mean anything, that his father’s memory lay nowhere near the stupid thing. He slumped against the wall. It was too much, suddenly. It was all too much. His mother had never gone this far before. And Lyle – Lyle was just like her! Why did her need to steal that thing out of her drawer every other day?

Trembling, forgetting about the tissue that was still stuck to his face, Robby went down the hall to where the phone rested on a small table – his father had managed to get a great bargain on it at the flea market, Robby remembered that day… Without dwelling too long, though, he picked up the phone and dialed.

“Aunt Jenny? It’s Rob. Robby. My mom – she – Lyle – I just… We need help.”

Everybody Dies

It’s an inevitable truth that everybody dies. We don’t all go in the same way. Not all of us get to live long enough. Too many of us die before our time. I say us, because humanity is a species, a world-wide animal that has taken over this planet. Doesn’t matter what you believe – in Darwin’s theories of evolution or in God creating the world in six days or the hundred other explanations people have to figure out how we got here. It doesn’t really matter why we’re here. Only that we are. And that we all die.

Some people believe in a beyond –  a heaven or a hell or something in between. Some believe that we’re all born again into a new body after we die. Some of us believe that there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that dying is the simple end of life itself, with nothing further. Once again, it doesn’t really matter what we believe about what happens after death. Some of us may take comfort in knowing that there’s a better place that we go to. But some, maybe even many, would rather keep going with their lives as long as they can without finding out what’s awaiting.

Everybody dies. Yes. It’s a simple truth. Death is portrayed as a dark angel, a hooded figure with a sickle, a looming darkness, a white light, a sense of peace… None of us will know what death is until it happens to us. The only thing I can imagine about death is silence. Absolute silence. So still, so extremely quiet, that it’s deafening.

Why does everybody die? It’s the simple cycle of nature, or God, or Gods – whatever and whomever you want to attribute it to. Some people believe there’s a reason – a sin, or a mistake, or something that needs punishing. Some people believe there’s a reason – that a person is too good to live in this world of fear and darkness. Some people simply believe there are no reasons.

The problem is, until now, this looks like a depressing, rather scattered article about death. But is it? Really? Isn’t knowing that death is inevitable freeing somehow? It can let us live without fear, without the constant gnawing pangs of worry over what might happen to us when we fly, or cross the road, or have a surgery. I can’t say that knowing that death is waiting for us all helps when someone we love dies. It doesn’t help then, and won’t ever, because losing someone is more difficult than losing oneself, or most always is.

But in terms of each of our own personal lives – there’s a freedom to being aware of the simple truth that humans, just like all other animals, procreate and then die, leaving the world to become, hopefully, a better place.