I hate the day you were born. I said this to Mom once, and she slapped me hard across my face. She never does understand the meaning of things I say. I do hate the day you were born, not because I don’t love you, but because your absence crushes me.
Tomorrow is your eighteenth birthday. Your eighth death-day. I don’t know that you’re aware of birthdays, ordinary days—the passage of time. I don’t know that you’re aware of anything at all, but I talk to you anyway. Do you hear me, Renny? Can you read my thoughts? Do you know how much I hate going to the lake? I would rather visit a quiet green cemetery, where I could deliver flowers and love letters to a grand marble headstone. I know it doesn’t really matter where I go to honor you; you are everywhere I look, yet nowhere to be found. You are no more a part of the water than you would be part of the earth, had you been returned to it. But you didn’t drown in dirt, and I suppose that fact is what makes the difference for me. The lake is evil, and I don’t like to remember you there. I only go for Mom. She doesn’t understand my position at all.
© Kindra M. Austin
Suddenly she’s dumb, glassy eyed and slack jawed. Reminds me of that vacant look she gets whenever she’s had enough to drink. She’s fixed on the flowerbed, but I know it’s you she’s watching, and not my Bleeding Hearts. She sees you out past the buoys, thrashing and splashing, crying for help between fatal gulps of Lake Huron. It isn’t a real memory, just a fabrication; it’s a violent scene sprung from a mother’s grief. I used to hear her screaming in the middle of the night. After Dad left, I would have to shout at her and shake her awake, and then we would both be up until dawn. She would cry and tell me about this nightmare, her memory of seeing you drown. She wasn’t even on the beach that afternoon. I was. And I have relived that moment thousands of times over—that moment when you’ll die thousands of times more.
The sun was full that day, a disc fierce yellow against a perfect blue sky. The beach was crowded at the swash, the dry sand too hot to be tolerated, and the lake was absolutely heaving. There were so many bodies, too many bodies, and no-body noticed you were sinking. Nobody, but me.
You’re dead, Renny. And it’s my fault.
© Kindra M. Austin