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16 October 2009 @ 04:32 pm

I had no desire to open that door.  If I could have had the choice to stay inside that car, warm but detached, soft upholstery and fogged-up glass shielding me from the rain and the cold and that damned dog barking its head off, I'm sure I would have taken it.  But my sense of duty overruled my sense of comfort, and I swung open the door with a swift sense of finality.

I worked quickly, grabbing my umbrella and pressing the button to release it.  It always got stuck, and I shook it irritably so it would open up properly.  As I stepped out, I stood face to face with my uncle's dog, seperated only by a metal fence.  I realized it had stopped barking, and for a minute, I wondered if it too could somehow understand the sobriety of today.

...Or not.  The dog suddenly let out an especially loud bark, and I jumped, caught off guard.  I sighed as the dog went back to pacing back and forth, still barking indignantly at me being so close to his yard.  I had always been one to romanticize everything, instead of looking at what was right in front of me and facing it.  But it was hard to run from today.  The sky was practically weeping, and the sky was so dark it was hard to see in front of me.  Fitting, I thought as I turned in the other direction and walked quickly towards Grandma's house.  No, not Grandma's...I didn't even know what to call it anymore.

When I opened the door and stepped inside, the first thing I noticed was the silence.  There were people everywhere, a silent mass of black and somber expressions, more people than there even were at Christmas, when Grandma's ten kids and God knows how many grandkids and great-grands all crammed into that little wooden house and kept up tradition with white elephant exchanges and raucous renditions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas".  Even when there were only one or two people there to visit, there was always the sound of lively conversation and laughter.  There were so many more people here today...yet you could hear a pin drop.

Eventually, slowly and cautiously, people began to talk again in hushed tones.  I found my mother and she began to introduce me to people I didn't know or those I hadn't seen since I was a child and had forgotten save for faint, kind voices and murky smiles.  My cousin from New York gave me a hug and said wryly, "We've got to quit meeting like this."  The last time I had seen her was at Grandpa's funeral two years ago.

I had kidded myself into thinking I could get through the funeral by the time the grandfather clock chimed.  It was small enough to sit on the mantel above the fireplace, but when it chimed on the half-hour, it was a low, deep bong that you could hear all through that little house.  Everyone paused.  I wondered if they were thinking of memories similar to my own.  Grandma would often look up from her cooking or her perch on the couch when she was entertaining and remark on the time.  "Oh, it's time for the news."  "Lord have mercy, where did the day go?"

I stared at the floor.  Grandma had been in such pain these past few weeks.  It was morbid, but I was glad she couldn't feel that pain anymore.  I felt such a deep loneliness; one thought was always lurking at the back of my mind.  I can't see her anymore.  It was a deceptively simple thought, but it kept reasserting itself with a stark finality, destroying any peace I caught hold of for long.  Someone that had wiped away our tears, been there beside us, given life to us in every sense of the word, was gone, and now only a hole was there to remind us. She had been in the center of our lives, and now that she was gone, I think we all felt a little less anchored and a little more afraid.

The funeral was in an old wooden church my grandfather had helped build and that my grandmother had devoted her life to serving in.  The choir sang an old hymn that she had loved, and I could hear her singing it with them.  I could see her bent over that stove like she was right there with me.  Tears slipped from my shut eyelids.  I bit my lip, and my chest heaved with sobs I wouldn't dare let escape.  I wasn't about to make a scene.  But...it was all too much.  Her body was lying in that casket, but she wasn't there.  And even that would be in the ground in a matter of hours.  No amount of goodbyes could make up for that.  This hole wouldn't hurt as much someday, but it would always be there.  I didn't have the strength  left to open my eyes, and my thoughts could no longer move forward.  I can't see her anymore.  I can't see her anymore.  I can't see her anymore...

09 October 2009 @ 10:35 am

It was only when he felt the cool wind race across his palm that he realized she had let go of his hand. 

Will's fingers twitched involuntarily at the sudden change in temperature, and as he slowly and absently relaxed them , he turned his head to figure out where she had gone.  She wasn't far; she never was.  Evie Voegel was just that kind of person-  she would be there one minute, but her mind would instantly fly off in some crazy direction, and her body would follow, amblingand stumbling in her happy haze towards a goal that only she knew.  And sometimes he wasn't even sure she did.

What had caught Evie's attention this time were some old railroad tracks.  They were worn and had probably been well-used long ago when it was the most reliable form of transportation, but now they were neglected, save for the occassional cargo train that chugged loudly through the neighborhood.  If you could call this place a neighborhood, there were more lonely-looking trees and half-dead grass in this part of town than anything. She was standing on the edge of one side of it, one foot just in front of the other.  She swung one foot in front of the other, then another, then another.  She was barely an inch off the ground, but she was concentrating as though she were on a tightrope with no net waiting for her below.

Will had to squint to see her.   There were only a few last overachieving rays of sunlight straining to get that last word in before the stars came out.  The crisp autumn wind that had been so refreshing just an hour earlier was now whipping across his face, making his eyes water.  "Wasn't this the point?" he muttered.  "Isn't this why we left early?"  If Evie heard him, she didin't acknowledge it.  It wasn't so bad in the daytime, but it definitely wasn't safe at night.  Balancing on train tracks?  Kids did that.  Kids also had such small attention spans.  They needed to get home.

It was always like this.  He loved Evie more than anything, but her grip on reality was loose and noncommittal at best.  If he wasn't there reminding her to go to class, get some groceries, not to spend all her time waxing poetic, she'd never get anything done.  She'd get taken advantage of, or worse...  And of course, he ended up looking like the bad guy.  He didn't really care what everybody else thought, but every so often, Evie would just give him that look.  It wasn't really angry;  Evie didn't do angry.  It was more resigned than anything, and it scared him.  It had crossed his mind more than once that if she felt too caged in, she would simply swing open the door and walk out.  Walk away without looking back.  If she could do that to her family, she could certainly do it to him.

Above the faraway sounds of traffic, Will could hear the tap of shoe soles on metal.  There was no rhythm to it; the only thing he could predict is that they would continue.  He glanced at Evie's booted feet moving one in front of the other and noticed the curve of them-  those heels were actually higher than he had thought.  Her feet moved with random but precise steps, like a ballerina in a dance that knew no time signature.  Her arms would flutter out now and then to adjust her balance; it was almost...graceful in a way.  Perhaps it wasn't so childish after all.  He smiled to himself, then sighed.  He knew what needed to be done.

Evie turned her head briefly to look at Will as she heard footsteps coming nearer, but it was only a quick glance. Something in her expression twitched- her eyes?  Her mouth?  It happened so fast, he didn't really remember, but she kept walking, perhaps to get a few last steps in.  She paused only when she felt arms slip around her waist.  She felt the tip of a shoe nudge her heel, and she smiled, taking a step forward obediently.  They walked like that for a while, a  random and graceful tangle of arms and legs.  Will tripped a few times, almost causing both of them to fall over, but somehow they were always able to right themselves, laughing.  Will figured he was probably right most of the time, but maybe Evie was right too.  Maybe it was all right to just live a little bit.  And anyway, Evie could wander all over the world if she wanted to; as long as he was walking along with her, she'd be all right. ...As long as he was walking along with her, he'd be all right.

The air had gotten still colder; their breaths were visible in puffs of air when they finally stopped.  Will held Evie close and murmured into her hair, smiling ruefully,  "You know that nothing's solved, right?"

Evie laughed and answered as though it were the most natural thing in the world,  "But that's life, Will."