IT WAS COLD, AND THE SKY SPREAD AMPLY OVER THE SADNESS

for PopPop

I thought it would happen in the middle of class or work: the phone would ring, and I
would trip into the hallway, and everyone would be able to tell, or maybe they
already knew, like someone whispered it into a game of telephone.
Didn’t the door groan quieter on my way back in? Can’t you see that my grandfather just died?
But it wasn’t. It was a week of waiting for a call, a week of hearing ‘today’s the day,’ and
by the time my phone rang through my headphones, I was about to scold my mom
for scaring me for the fourth time that week, to remind her not to call
unless it was the call. But I was walking to class, and it was cold,
and my face just chapped against the wind when she said ‘Where are you?’, and her voice
sounded like hospice and like she was grieving more for my father than for his,
and that was enough. I sat down and searched Wikipedia for ‘compartmentalizing’
and ‘isolation (psychology)’ and wished there was someone there to psychoanalyze me,
because there’s nothing I love more than hearing about myself. It was a Thursday,
and there was no time for grief. You said ‘Bye, girl’ when you hugged me last,
and I will swear to my grave that you still knew who I was, because I was your favorite.
You could even forget my father, as long as you remembered me, because then,
you were doing just fine, because I could pretend that I would be the last to leave,
and only then would we have to face you leaving us. All things die in threes,
and when they cut the huge magnolia tree down from the front yard, I started looking
for another way out. I think I’ve lost my taste for chocolate éclair pie,
because you might’ve loved it as much as you loved me, a sweetness as strong
as that box truck stocked with the most candy I’d ever seen,
because you filled vending machines of all things, and I could always have
what I wanted, even if I didn’t come along. I think you forgot how much you loved
to smoke your pipe. Forgot the cheap carpet that lined your box truck, but
tobacco and nylon and sugar are all I can remember. Maybe it’s because
I’ve blocked most of it out. Maybe it’s because I’m waiting for you to come back,
because you didn’t want a funeral, so maybe, it’s like you’re still at home
in bed, because walking is too hard, and you’re watching the History Channel again,
but no one else is. Or you’re sitting on the couch, shaved that day, your routine carried out
for you before I’ve even arrived, and you’re staring at a picture book of your family’s old
warehouse and shaking it like you’re frustrated, but really, it’s just that your hands
are tired of the radiation. Everything shakes. And the snow has just started,
and the sky is spread thin, and so am I. Maybe, if I avoid it for long enough,
I’ll see you in time for Christmas, and we can give you another new pair of slippers,
because when you treat kids like adults, they act like them, and if I treat you
like you’re not in that urn, you’ll ring the doorbell, holding magnolia petals.

[Fall/Winter 2014]

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