I have been trying to write you this letter for some time now, only to cross it out, delete it, crumple it up, throw it away—what do I want to say?
I don’t know why it always takes me by surprise. I’ve gotten the same headache every single November 1st for the last eight years. But each time the day rolls around, and I wake up with my brain feeling like a walnut being pressed in the vise-like grip of a nutcracker, I wonder, what is wrong with me?
By the second or third day, I remember. Oh, yeah. The sky has darkened. The anniversary of your death is coming up. And my body responds like it’s set to some kind of primal alarm.
Since you died, I pretty much have to cross these two months—November and December—off. It seems so backwards to be feasting, and shopping and scattering glittery knick knacks all over the house, when inside I just feel bleak. But I do it, I keep up the pretense, because otherwise I think it would be even worse.
I have been trying to write you this letter for some time now, only to cross it out, delete it, crumple it up, throw it away. What do I really want to say?
One thing I’d love to know is whether it was you I saw in my bedroom after you died. If it was, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
It was sometime in January, maybe a month in, and I was laying in bed, unable to sleep. Your father was next to me, snoring away, blacked out because of the melatonin—he took a lot back then, just to close his eyes.
The room was fairly bright, there was a big, round moon outside and snow all over the ground. Suddenly, you appeared. It wasn’t a dream—it was nothing like a dream. You were standing at the foot of the bed as clear as day, looking exactly like you always looked: rumpled hair, baggy jeans, your face flushed and your eyes (your eyes which we donated to a child in Indiana, who now looks through them every day) a dark, liquid blue.
My heart froze. You began to walk toward me and I tried to speak to you, but I couldn’t get any words out. You came right up beside me and leaned over and pulled the drawer of my bedside table out. You never looked directly at me. Then you disappeared. My breath came in ragged gasps. My heart battered the inside of my ribs.
I never fell asleep that night, but waited until the sun came up for you to come back, as still as a stone, so as not to scare you away.
But you never did.
I want to tell you how sorry I am that I never go to the cemetery anymore. Your sisters are much better about it than I am. If I could never go again, that would be okay. I hate it there.
I don’t think you take it personally, at least I hope you don’t. I just can’t see what good it does to stand around and think of your poor, young man’s body in whatever awful state of decay it must be in, no doubt fused at this point to the suit we buried you in—you know, that one you wore to homecoming.
Maybe my not going is a kind of denial, maybe I am weak—all I know is, when I do visit, the whole rest of the day is ruined. How does that help anyone?
It’s not like I don’t think about you all the time. I do. We all do. Anything and everything brings you to the forefront of my mind. Ordering Little Caesar’s Pizza, driving past any kind of Jeep, walking into the basement where your room was, where you took your life, seeing your little brother’s face in almost any expression.
He looks exactly like you.
The most painful, I think, is when your best friend comes by.
He’s been so loyal to you and our family. When I put my arms around him, I am putting my arms around you too. It is a sacred, agonizing affair. Like you would be, he is an adult now, grown in all ways, whole, the corners of his mind filling out with understanding, empathy and discipline.
Your dad and I sit with him on the patio, dad gives him a cigar, we share a scotch, toast you, talk about the old days and also about what’s going on lately.
After he leaves, we sit together quietly for a while, staring up at the sky.
“He’s doing so great,” one of us will eventually say.
“He really is,” says the other. “I wonder what Bobby would be doing now.”
It would be nice to know where you are, wherever it may be—as long as it isn’t nowhere, but I try not to think like that. It would be nice to know that you can still feel our love; or maybe feel it now, as you were unable to while you were alive.
I’m not sure if this letter will ever reach you, but if it does, I hope you can hear me say—you are unforgettable. If you feel like stopping by again some night, I will be here. I will try not to be afraid.
I will try and tell you I love you.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman