Burying the Dead

 

I didn’t think it would happen this year. Not that I thought I wouldn’t think about it, I just hoped it would come and go before I realized it.

But then the Christmas lights went up, and the ghosts came down.

And there I was- standing in the middle of the store, trapped between boxes of stuffing and cans of cranberry sauce that towered over displays of pumpkin pie- sinking to my knees, watching them die…one by one by one.

But we weren’t going to do this again, remember? That was the deal. I just had to make it through one more Thanksgiving and one more Christmas, and then next year would be happy. This year would be happy.

But it was too late. The countdown had begun, your ghosts unleashed, and we were all going straight to hell…

Back to the accident.

But this year, it’s more than just the memory of it. It’s now morphed into this fucked up source of shame. I mean, honestly, it’s been three years, and they’re dead, and I’m not. It’s time to move on.

And then shame turns to guilt. Because what kind of person could just dismiss it and move on? And then comes rage, because I keep ending up in this horrible place. And I don’t want to write about it anymore.

But every night, they find their way in, under the covers and into my head, seizing my thoughts, ravaging my sleep, demanding words in exchange for peace.

And the hope that maybe next year, they’ll let me bury the dead.

It’s always the same scene that haunts me. But, it’s not of the accident. It’s a memory I’ve never had, in a place I’ve never seen.

I have no idea what his house looked like or how big his family was, or if he even celebrated Thanksgiving. But that’s where I go, to his living room- his family seated around a long table, lined with white porcelain plates, matching bowls and platters, all strategically placed around an elegant flower arrangement, candles on either side.

A younger version of him, maybe his little brother, strains to grab the bowl of stuffing his mom is passing to him, both reaching across the empty space between them, the one she always sets, where he no longer sits.

Dalí’s clocks came to mind,
As I studied you from the side.
The way your head tilted back,
Pouring down your spine.

On my knees, shivering
Staring at my phone,
Pulling up blades of grass,
One by one by one.

The silence, deafening,
Now drenched in blood,
No one was going to call,
No one was going to come.

Could you taste it, the smell:
Charred rubber and gas?
Could you feel it, the injustice…

I was holding my breath, while you were taking your last.

Maybe if I’d just…you’d still be alive.

WARNING: Some of the content below is graphic…and very sad. 

I thought it would be a memory by now, a horrific, tragic memory that happened two years ago…two years ago tonight at exactly 7:33 pm.

The accident, when my car collided into theirs…and they all died.

Most days it is a memory. Until I hear a loud crash and my body convulses, or an ambulance goes by and I can’t catch my breath, or at night, when I can’t sleep- trying to piece together how the hell I let everything get this bad- I see their contorted bodies, I see the blood…all of it, every detail.

Those days, it isn’t just a memory. It is what gutted me to the core. It’s what I fear made something snap, something I cannot fix.

I know I should be grateful. I lived. And I am. Of course, I am.

But then this day approaches, and I can’t help going back there, sitting on my knees,

…watching, pulling cold, wet blades of grass out of the ground. I watched the policeman approach the car to access the damage. I watched the fire department arrive and begin to cut them out of the car. I watched them put the boys on the stretchers and push them into the ambulance. I watched the ambulance drive away.

And there I am, here I am, trying to imagine what I could have done to prevent it. And I go there, the place I know I shouldn’t go.

Maybe if I’d just…

Run a little slower, showered a little longer, left the coffee shop a little earlier…faced going home to my empty apartment.

Maybe if I’d never moved to that wretched city, to be with him, someone I loved who did everything he could to destroy me.

Or maybe if I would have had enough strength to leave him the first time he left me, or the second or third…

Maybe if I’d stayed married to my sweet husband in our beautiful house with our precious puppy.

Or I’d stayed in Paris, never gotten married, never hurt my sweet husband or moved to that wretched city…

Where I ran too fast, showered too quickly, left later than I should have…to go back to an empty apartment where I knew he wouldn’t be, the one who almost destroyed me. 

Maybe if I’d just…

You would all still be alive.

I know this does no good. I know it wasn’t my fault. They were reckless. They put so many lives at risk. And I know if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else who might not have walked away. And I know this night won’t always haunt me, just like he can no longer hurt me.

And I know that, maybe, next year will be different, happier, and I’ll have finally put this all behind me.