Your Picture Gets Me Every Time

You know when things go wrong, one after the other? You feel kind of…overwhelmed, I guess…? You’re not really sure how to put it. And you’re not really sure how to handle it. And then the old shit comes up, and then the REALLY old shit comes up, and you’re stuck in your head. And you’re thinking too much, worrying about things you can’t do anything about. 

I revisit this piece whenever I’m having one of, “those days.” Because when such a day rears its baby-bird head (ugly, needing attention),  I end up at the very beginning, 

♫ “A very good place to start
When you read you begin with, ‘A, B, C.'” ♫

♫When you write, you begin with, “ME, ME, ME.”♫

 

Your Picture Gets Me Every Time

I saw your face at a memorial service in a slideshow and froze with fear. I swear your picture gets me every time. You stood there with the deceased, arm in arm and smiling. Unaffected by the world. Two ghosts in a still frame. What about the ones you left behind?

The other woman in the photo, your aunt, died a year ago. Her husband sat silently through the service, through dinner, the whole evening staring at nothing. Three hundred and sixty five days have come and gone and his memories hold him captive. What’s a year compared to a lifetime?

They say the memories are what kill you. In the end you can’t move on because all you think of is her smile, her laugh, the way her hair smelled. All of it bundled in your brain rendering you incapable of fully functioning. This is what destroys you. Or rather, what you wish would destroy you. Instead you’re left alone, surviving and suffering (is there a difference?), longing to trade places with your beloved.

The human body decomposes so much in a year, he probably wouldn’t recognize her. The process is a little slower in a coffin. The body could remain identifiable for a short time. Generally though, within the first year, all that’s often left is the skeleton and teeth. Maybe some tissue, holding on.

It takes forty to fifty years for the bones to become dry and brittle in a coffin. You’ve been dead for 30. Buried in the ground. Rotting away. Vulgar, I know. Distasteful even. But what am I to do? Imagine you laughing and happy? It’s easier to think of the biology, the simple facts, the basics. The nothingness we all become. It’s easier to see you that way than to picture your face.

Is losing me what killed you? Did your body just give up on life?

“Losing.” What a joke. It’s not like you misplaced your baby. You didn’t put me down for a second and then forget where you left me. You made the conscious choice, however coerced you felt, however riddled with guilt, and how badly you wanted to please your parents, your sister, you still made the choice. You brought a life into this world, and instead of being responsible for it, you gave it away. You gave me away like I was a puppy you brought home and changed your mind about.

If I’d have been a boy, my life would have been different. You’d have deemed me worth keeping.

I try not to complain. I know how lucky I am to live here, to have seen this much of the world, to be loved by all these wonderful people. But in my blood – in my bones – there’s poison. And even though I’ve been licking my wounds for years, the venom sinks deeper.

I was a little girl when it happened, the first time he touched me.  Maybe you didn’t know how bad things would be, but you knew he was a monster. You put me in harms way. You brought me into this world, you were supposed to protect me. If I’d have been a boy, I’d be safe from the demons I can’t cope with.

Socrates would tell you that the unexamined life is not worth living. Better to be a discontented human than a happy pig? I used to agree, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’d have a better go of it as bacon.

I stood in the rain today for hours. Days. Years. I’m not really sure how long. I let the cold drops seep through my clothes, my skin, into my bones, trying to wash it away, trying to rid my marrow of the poison. If I close my eyes I can pretend you’re here, your arms circle around me, gathering my pieces, protecting me. Does this hurt more or does it ease the aching? I’m so numb I can’t tell. Are these my tears or just rain? I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I’m too cold to think and I think too much to feel warmth. I stopped making sense long ago.

They say the memories are what kill you but I beg to differ; I have none and I’m dying. You were my first human connection and I don’t remember you at all. I have no idea what your laugh sounded like and I never got to smell your hair. How do you mourn the loss of someone you never had? Your picture, though. It gets me every time.

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